In September, Miles Weske of Nisswa faced an uncertain future. He was left fighting for his life after being on board a medical helicopter that crashed in Alexandria.
Three and a half months later, Weske's future is much more certain and bright. The flight paramedic was released from the hospital on Nov. 18. He is set to return to work on Jan. 1 and will be getting married to his fiancee, Brooklyn Weber, on Jan. 28.
"It really is a new chapter of my life being home with Brook (Weber) and the kids," Weske said. "All of those in the hospital that cared for me were critical parts of my recovery, but I think that it took me actually being home to get the motivation to get out of bed and work hard to get back to as normal as I can be."
On Saturday, Sept. 17, Weske, a paramedic with North Memorial Air Ambulance service and a ground paramedic for Cuyuna Regional Medical Center and North Memorial Ambulance, was in the back seat of the helicopter when it crashed north of the Alexandria Municipal Airport about 2 a.m. The aircraft had been en route to pick up a patient at the Douglas County Hospital before poor weather forced the helicopter to attempt a landing at the airport.
Others in the helicopter included Pilot Joshua Jones, 47, and flight nurse Scott Scepaniak, 44. Jones and Scepaniak were initially in serious condition at North Memorial Medical Center, but were released.
Weske suffered the most severe injuries, including fractures of his C2 and C3 vertebrae, a liver laceration, multiple broken ribs, a broken sternum, broken femur, broken ankle, collapsed lungs and blood in his lungs.
After being on the other side of a medical emergency, Weske says his appreciation of emergency personnel has intensified.
"I have realized the impact that EMS workers and hospital personnel have on the medical care of patients," Weske said. "Being on this side of things definitely makes me take time to look at everyone who is involved in the collaborative effort of patient care. I wouldn't be here without the help of each person that was present that night."
Additionally, Weske says he now has an even deeper admiration for his fiancee, who is a flight nurse.
"It made me realize how lucky I am to have an advocate like Brook by my side," he said. "She's literally the smartest nurse I know, and on top of it she was there to help manage my care and keep everyone up-to-date on my condition."
A new normal
As they've spent the past month and a half adjusting to a new way of life, Weske and Weber have found new appreciation in the little things, including being together with the couple's combined six children.
"Spending the holidays at home with our family was a feeling I can't adequately explain," Weber said. "Early on, I didn't know if I would ever get to spend another holiday with my soulmate, so getting to spend time with him is simply a miracle. And to be home is stressful, but I have Miles by my side, so I couldn't ask for a better life."
Though Weske is on the road to recovery, he still faces some medical issues. He has extensive nerve damage in his feet and left hand, which is the biggest challenge he is dealing with.
"His left hand and finger function may not be coming back, so Miles is learning new ways to do things," Weber said. "Walking is also something that Miles is working on. ... He is currently using the walker and canes and is starting to walk on his own now."
Weber has stayed busy caring for Weske, returning to work and planning a wedding. However, she says the chaos of day-to-day life is worth it with Weske by her side.
"I have so much to get done in just a month, but I figure that if the worst thing that could go wrong is not having my (wedding) decorations finished, then I am doing pretty good with life," Weber said. "Everything I have ever worried about seems so insignificant now."
Weske is also looking forward to the wedding. But first, he is excited to return to work. Though he won't be in a helicopter in the near future, returning to that aspect of his job does not scare Weske, despite going through what he has.
"I am a paramedic," Weske said. "I always will be and I want to get back in that helicopter as soon as I can."