Overcoming life-changing injuries
October 17, 2018
She may have lost her eye, but the accident didn't claim her life and that's something she's grateful for.
Green River resident Kayla Vigil's life completely changed on July 27. Vigil, 23, and her fiancé, David Clinton, 25, decided to go for a 4-wheeler ride near the shooting range at FMC Park.
Clinton said it was a Friday and they had decided to go for a quick ride before meeting up with some friends later. At first, Clinton was driving the 4-wheeler and Vigil was in back, but then Vigil wanted a turn to drive.
While Vigil was driving along, Clinton saw a steep hill and thought it would be fun for to have the 4-wheeler to climb it.
"I said 'go up that big hill,' and we did," Clinton said.
As they proceeded up the hill, Vigil realized they weren't going to make it. She tried to let off of the gas, but then the 4-wheeler started going backwards. Somehow it got turned on its side and then started rolling down the hill side over side.
After the crash, Clinton looked around to find Vigil.
"There was blood everywhere and her eyeball popped out," Clinton recalled.
Clinton called 911 and then kept Vigil sitting upright because if he didn't, she would start choking on her own blood.
Clinton said he knew the firefighters and ambulance personnel responded quickly to the scene, but it seemed like forever.
"I kept going to sleep," Vigil said.
Clinton said a helicopter was supposed to come, but he was told it wasn't fueled. So an ambulance was sent instead. He said because Vigil kept choking on her blood, the emergency responders had no choice but to carry her down the hill while keeping her upright. Clinton said if they would have used the gurney she would have choked to death.
Vigil was transported to the Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County, where she was then taken by helicopter to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
"By the time I got to the hospital, she was gone," Clinton said.
As Vigil was clinging to life, Clinton was being treated for a broken collar bone and severe bruising on his left side. He said the hospital was good at releasing him as soon as they could so he could go to Salt Lake City.
Vigil's injuries were much worse.
"I broke every bone in my face," Vigil said.
She also suffered lacerations to her spleen and liver, a small brain bleed, hearing loss in her left ear and her right eye was barely hanging on.
"I have 76 screws and 10 plates in my face now," she said, pointing to her face.
Vigil remained in the hospital until Sept. 4. While in the hospital, Vigil's mouth was wired shut and she was fed through a feeding tube.
Vigil said she is having problems eating because she can't open her mouth very far, but they are going to get her a device that would help her open her mouth and strengthen her muscles as she uses it.
While at the hospital, all of Vigil's hair was shaved off because they thought they would need to access the area by the left ear for surgery, but it turned out the bone wasn't broken that far.
Even though Vigil has a beautiful blonde wig to wear, she hasn't wore it much.
"I really don't wear it that often," she said.
"She feels like herself when she's not wearing it," Clinton said.
A turning point
"She's doing really well now," Clinton said.
Vigil took the same 4-wheeler out that she rode the day of her accident to go hunting. She had to shoot using her left eye and her left hand, which isn't what she used to do, but she took down a buck deer. Vigil said it felt good to do something she had always done.
"Don't ever let a 'life changing' event change your life. You are in control and can choose how to take what happens. Today I got to harvest a mule deer. Left handed shot with my non dominant eye at 100 yards. I had my doubts, but I did it," Vigil posted on her Kayla's Journey Facebook page about the hunting trip.
Clinton saw a change in Vigil after she went hunting. A good change.
"Going hunting really helped her," Clinton said.
Clinton also noticed Vigil was starting to hang out with friends and starting to do more activities.
One thing both Vigil and Clinton regret, was the fact that neither of them were hearing helmets on the day of the accident.
"I probably wouldn't have lost my eye," Vigil said. "It was supposed to be a quick ride."
They both said they will never ride without a helmet again. Even if it's just a quick trip.
One thing Vigil thought about constantly was whether or not she should meet those who saved her. This was still an emotional topic for Vigil.
Eventually, she decided to meet those who she credits with saving her life. For Vigil, there is no doubt in her mind that the quick actions of those who arrived at the scene of her accident saved her life. She met with Green River Fire Department firefighters to thank them.
"It was emotional for me to meet them, but very thankful for them," Vigil posted on her Kayla's Journey Facebook page.
"They did a really good job of getting there and getting her off of the mountain," Clinton said.
"I thought about it a long time," Vigil said. "I wanted to say thank you. If it wasn't for them, I probably wouldn't be here."
Vigil and Clinton were surprised to hear that many of those who responded to her accident were following her on her Facebook page or had made donations on her GoFundMe page https://www.gofundme.com/kayla-vigil
On Monday, Vigil underwent another surgery to remove her eye.
"It's causing her pain, so they've got to remove it," Clinton said.
Vigil said they removed her eye and placed a mold into the socket see how big the prosthetic eye will need to be. She said she will probably get the prosthetic eye in December.
Vigil knew she'd lose her eye.
"They knew right after the accident," she said.
Once the area around the socket has healed, she will undergo another surgery in January or February for facial reconstruction.