By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The Coder family, which lives and works at the Anchor Academy for Boys 32 miles north of Havre, has had a tough time over the last few weeks, but is focusing on the positive.
"I'm happy that I'm not paralyzed," said Caleb Coder, 12, who suffered a shattered vertebrae when his horse fell on top of him Jan. 25.
The Coders are still waiting to see what more needs to be done - Caleb's doctors are hopeful his bones will heal and not need surgery to replace the vertebrae, but nothing is certain - and how much of the expense they will have to pay out of their own pocket.
They have insurance, but know some of the costs won't be covered. "We'll just have to wait and see," said Caleb's mother, Karla Coder.
The accident happened while Caleb and an academy student were galloping after cattle that had broken through a fence.
"There was this big badger hole. My horse tripped and fell over on me," he said.
The student made sure Caleb was awake, then rode back to the academy buildings to radio Caleb's father, T.C. Coder, who had driven off with several other students to get wood to fix the fence.
T.C. turned the truck around and drove toward his son.
T.C. said that when he got to Caleb, the first thing he noticed were his facial injuries.
"The left side of his face looked like someone took a baseball bat to it," T.C. said. "I asked how much his face hurt. He said, 'My face doesn't hurt, it's my back.' That's when I knew we had a problem."
They drove Caleb back to the academy buildings, duct-taped him to a back brace and took him to the emergency room at Northern Montana Hospital.
Karla said the hospital did a CT scan, determined the extent of his injuries - in addition to the damage to his face and the shattered vertebrae, his lungs were severely bruised by the impact - and decided immediately to fly him to a larger hospital. That took some work.
"It was a long night," T.C. said.
None of the major hospitals in Montana had room, T.C. said. But while Northern Montana Hospital was seeing if Caleb could be flown to either Denver or Salt Lake City, Deaconess Hospital in Billings called back, T.C. said.
St. Vincent's Hospital sent the jet that flew Caleb and his mother to Billings, where they were taken to Deaconess Hospital, the family said.
"I went home and loaded up some suitcases and got there about 3 o'clock in the morning," T.C. said.
Karla said the surgeons at Deaconess originally were going to operate immediately, replacing the vertebrae with bone from Caleb's hip. They then decided to wait and see if his young bones would heal themselves, because of problems that could arise with bone replacement.
Caleb was on morphine for the pain for four days, starting at Northern Montana Hospital, his father said. He was in the intensive care unit, on a special bed that rotates 30 degrees left, then 30 degrees right, every five minutes to prevent bed sores, for six days. He spent two more days in a private room before he was released, his mother said.
That was better than expected, T.C. said.
"They originally said he would be in the ICU for two weeks," T.C. said. "He was out of the ICU on day six and back home on day nine."
"We think that was the prayers," Karla added.
Caleb spends all of his waking moments in a two-piece custom back brace that wraps him from neck to hip. He can attend school for half a day each day. He can't bend, lift or twist - "They call it BLT," said Karla - and can't pick up more than 5 pounds at a time.
"I'm missing the outdoors," Caleb said.
"He gets pretty discouraged," Karla said. "He just turned 12 last week. We're just glad he didn't die and isn't paralyzed."
"He's a lucky guy," T.C. said. "It was definitely God protecting him. He took the full brunt of 1,400 pounds right on top of him."
The Coders, who are from the Havre area originally and moved back from Bozeman three years ago to work at the academy, said the incident has highlighted the kindness and sense of community on the Hi-Line.
"Havre's always been a very gracious bunch of people," T.C. said. "People still have compassion up here."
Karla said the family knows the $10,000 charge for the flight to Billings won't be covered by insurance, and they are still waiting to see how much other out-of-pocket expense they will have.
Some people have already sent money to help with expenses, T.C. said, and now friends have established a benefit account for Caleb at Independence Bank in Havre.
The Coders said they were "overwhelmed" by the news.
"It's not until you have something like this happen that you realize how great people in the community are," Karla said.
"Neighbors are still neighbors, even if you don't know them, and are willing to help," T.C. added.