Sgt. Mike Wendler has spent most of his adult life serving his community and country, first as a Marine and then for 16 years as a state police officer.
Putting his safety and life on the line has always been part of the job, and it’s a risk he and his wife, Amy Wendler, were very aware of — a risk that became reality on Sept. 8.
It was around 8:30 a.m. when Wendler was on the scene of an accident, directing traffic on Interstate 84 in Jerome County, Idaho.
According to East Idaho News, a news release revealed that it was a 22-year-old woman with a suspended license who was driving distracted, texting and allegedly taking photos of the accident on her phone, hit the officer.
Traffic had slowed down, but she didn’t notice until it was too late, and she veered around traffic and slammed directly into Wendler.
As a result, the trooper was almost killed on the spot. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, had a fractured jaw and was missing teeth. The skin on his hand was ripped apart, and he was unresponsive when help arrived.
“He was given CPR for 22 minutes,” Amy said. “He was life-flighted to EIRMC. To be honest, every time a doctor or nurse would come out one of the doors, I would panic, thinking that they were going to tell me something terrible and that’s truly all I remember of the day.”
The trauma surgeon who worked on Wendler at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center said there was very little hope in the beginning.
“Based on what we had heard about his injury, there was a high likelihood that it may not be survivable,” Dr. Adam Meziani said. “He was the worst neurologic condition that we have. Completely unresponsive, needing a breathing tube to breathe.”
When he survived long enough to wake up, he was unable to recognize his own family.
“He didn’t know me. He didn’t know our kids,” Amy said.
“I was with him for the first five days, every day up here,” colleague Sgt. Tagg Williams said. “And it was rough because we know this can happen any day. We’ve all had close calls but for it to actually happen and to experience that, it was rough watching Mike go through that.”
The driver who’d hit Wendler cooperated with authorities, and the Jerome Police Department recommended misdemeanor charges for reckless driving, driving without privileges and destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence. Amy is pushing for harsher punishment for distracted drivers after the avoidable behavior nearly claimed her husband’s life.
“This has changed my life, my husband’s life, my children’s life, forever,” she said. “It’s not worth sending someone to the hospital, possibly taking their career.”
“[T]hat’s been the hardest part, is, somebody was distracted, distracted while they were driving and almost took my husband and my children’s father.”
A GoFundMe was set up for the Wendler family. Friends, family and the community rallied to support them with their time, money and prayers.
And Wendler lived.
“He’s quite frankly a miracle,” Amy said. “He’s really progressed quickly and way sooner than any of the doctors expected … I give all of that credit to God.
“It’s truly humbling all of the support we have had behind us.”
“I think there is a chance that he will be able to get back on the road and get back to being a trooper,” Williams added. “Not only is he a very strong guy, he is one of the most intelligent troopers that I know. To see him walk out today, to see where we are today, you know, from where I saw him three weeks ago, is — is nothing short of a miracle. I never thought we’d be in this position to see him walk out.”
On Saturday, Wendler got to go home. Colleagues lined the way as he left the hospital, cheering him on. He was escorted home by state troopers. His community of Twin Falls gave him a hero’s welcome.
“I can’t even express how this day made us feel,” Amy wrote in a recap of the day, which was shared on the GoFundMe. “Michael got to say goodbye to the nurses and was cheered on by all of his doctors and nurses at EIRMC, then an police escort all of the way home. Different agencies were set up to wave on our way through.
“When we got into Twin….oh my gosh. The amazing support of our community. What we never expected was for lifeflight to escort him back home and for the firefighters and emt that saved him to be there. Then to pull into our neighborhood and see our neighborhood family there. The tears and hugs. You guys, there is nothing better than this.”
While the journey ahead to health will be difficult, Wendler has proven that he has what it takes. Amy took the opportunity to praise God for bringing about the miraculous recovery.
“My babe is one strong bad a**,” she wrote. “He fought hard and the prayers from all over the country are what made this a miracle.
“Don’t ever think that God doesn’t hear you. This is a testament to what only He can do.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.