In April, the Sattler family was just a few miles from their home in Richardton, North Dakota, on I-94 when it started to get dark and snow.
As they drove, their Ford F-250 hit a patch of black ice and ended up crossing the median, entering the oncoming lane and flipping, leaving the driver and passengers injured.
Local teen Anika Sayler was not far behind them. She momentarily lost control of her own car when the semi-truck in front of her slammed on its breaks to avoid the wreck.
“I saw a woman on the phone and you could tell by her facial expressions that something was wrong,” the 17-year-old told The Dickinson Press. “Then I looked and saw a man laying on the ground and a pick-up smashed and laying on its roof.”
“The truck was completely crushed and I immediately thought that whoever was in that vehicle probably didn’t make it. I jumped out of my car and made my way to the ditch to see if there was anything I could do. It was very, very cold. I was wearing sandals with no socks.”
“I just didn’t even think about it,” Sayler later told KFYR-TV. “I guess it was just the right thing to do.”
“I was pinned in the pickup,” mom Kim said. “I could hear Duane kind of moaning and groaning outside, but I had no idea what happened to Shawn.”
It was the father, Duane Sattler, who was on the ground, looking beyond help. Sayler said that his eyes “were grayed and glossed over.” Another person had arrived and started CPR, but after watching him, Sayler could tell his technique was off. She took over while others called for help.
“I remember taking that freshman year CPR class and how boring I thought it was, and how I would never use it,” Sayler said, according to the Press. “I was wrong.”
“I wasn’t going to stop until emergency services arrived. Finally, I could see that he was trying to breathe. I checked his pulse and felt a faint radial pulse, so I stopped the chest compressions.”
Duane was clearly in a lot of pain, but Sayler stayed with him and tried to keep him talking. When first responders arrived, Shawn was airlifted to Bismarck and Duane to Fargo.
Kim also spent some time in the hospital, but her injuries were nowhere as severe as her husband’s and son’s.
“I came out of it pretty good,” she said. “Shawn had 18 broken and cracked ribs and then his left elbow was completely shattered.”
Doctors didn’t think Duane would make it.
“I believe I had 11 fractures on my spine, and two on my hangman’s,” Duane explained. “I guess they say that if you break that, it’s really bad, and my hip was dislocated, I was bruised up all over.”
Duane also broke his jaw, he faces potential surgeries down the road and he has weekly medical checkups — but he’s alive, something the family considers a miracle. He’s also walking, which the doctors said would be unlikely.
“I have no doubt — I feel that God intervened,” Duane said.
“For all three of us to survive that is, it is a miracle,” Kim added.
Sayler has been recognized for her part as well, and was awarded the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award in July.
“A real hero, Anika performed CPR to save a man’s life after a rollover accident,” the Facebook page for the award shared. “Her bravery and selflessness did not go unnoticed by the Stark County Mayors, as they selected her as June’s award recipient out of 34 submitted nominations.”
The incident has only confirmed Sayler’s chosen career path.
“I’ve decided that I want to be an intensive care unit nurse and talking with my boss at work, she said this is the type of stuff I would be dealing with if I continue down that path,” Sayler told the Press. “I think it gave me my first perspective of emergency life-and-death situations.
“Seeing that man in this position, when he was most vulnerable and in need, has made me certain that a profession in the medical field is the best place to be to provide that type of help.”
The Sattlers are now happy to be home again, enjoying some normalcy after the chaos of the past few months. They’re incredibly grateful for all the help they’ve received from the community, especially as they have a farm to tend to, and many have pitched in to help with the tasks Duane would normally handle.
“That support, it was just overwhelming,” Kim said.
For now, Duane is focused on getting back to full health so he can operate his farm once again. And one goal has become more important to Duane than it was before: “Enjoy life.”
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