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Todd and Sue Greiner

Returning to Life after Catastrophic Injury

Everyone was so kind and treated Todd with such respect. Every single person we worked with genuinely cared about Todd and about our family.

Todd Greiner loves to fly. He has held a pilot’s license for 27 years and has been a flight instructor for 24. On June 10, 2016, he was with another pilot practicing advanced maneuvers when his plane stalled and crashed near Marion, Illinois. Todd doesn’t remember the crash or most of the two months following it.

He had been trapped in the wreckage, catastrophically injured, and was just barely alive.

When a nearby EMS crew responded, Todd’s breathing was labored and blood was filling his lungs and chest. He had a broken jaw and palate and deep cuts on his face. A medical helicopter quickly flew Todd to Barnes-Jewish Hospital, 35 minutes away.

That was the worst day of Sue Greiner’s life. At the hospital, Sue was attempting to come to terms with the fact that her husband might not make it through the night.

Lifesaving Specialized Care at Barnes-Jewish

Trauma patients injured as critically as Todd seldom survive without quick access to specialized care and resources. Luckily, thanks to donors to The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital, that care and expertise was readily available at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Todd arrived at the hospital with critically unstable vital signs. Working quickly, physicians performed emergency surgery to open Todd’s chest and squeeze his heart to restart it. Finally, Todd was stable enough to at least make it to the operating room.

Over the next eight weeks, Todd had six more operations to address his many health issues. Thankfully, Barnes-Jewish has top-ranked physicians in all areas of care. Todd saw neurosurgeons for a traumatic brain injury, trauma surgeons for a lacerated liver and intestines, thoracic surgeons for a collapsed lung, and a reconstructive hand surgeon for his crushed left hand and multiple other broken bones.

Through it all, Todd and Sue were in expert hands. “Todd was more than just a chart. He was a human being and every single person we worked with genuinely cared about him and about our family,” Sue says.

Learning to Fly Again

Doctors feared Todd’s brain injury, similar to shaken baby syndrome, might have caused profound damage. They prepared Sue for the possibility of having to find long-term care.

Sue stayed by Todd’s side day after day, longing to just hear his voice again. When he squeezed her hand for the first time, Sue was overcome by emotion. She leaned over her husband of 42 years and whispered, “I love you so much. I miss you so much.” Almost a month later, doctors removed Todd’s ventilator. He finally opened his eyes, looked at Sue, and spoke his first words, “I love you.”

While Todd wasn’t out of the woods yet, Sue was elated to have her husband back. “He went through something every single day,” Sue says, “But, through it all, everyone was so kind and treated Todd with such respect.”

After a two-month stay at Barnes-Jewish, Todd was released for rehabilitation. Back home, Todd continued to work hard and progress. He now starts each day with a walk on the treadmill, and has worked up to a mile and a half at a time.

Todd’s biggest milestone came in February 2017, when he flew again for the first time since his crash. He felt anxious at first, but as his plane climbed into the air, his nervousness turned to exhilaration.

“It felt good,” Todd says. “It was such victory.”