The miraculous survival of a 19-year-old Turkish woman has touched the hearts of the entire trauma department at Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center.
The medical professionals, who see horrendous injuries every day, are stunned by the recovery of Zaide Guler Narmanli, an international exchange worker, after she was hit by a car in Sandusky and sustained massive brain injuries.
Ms. Narmanli, who was a seasonal lifeguard at Great Wolf Lodge, doesn’t remember the incident. Her last memory was leaving a local market on her bike on July 3.
She was riding her bicycle at Camp and Pierce streets when she was struck by a vehicle that night, said Sgt. Eric Short from the Sandusky Post of the Ohio Highway Patrol.
The driver, a 27-year-old Sandusky woman, initially fled the scene but was found by police two days later and has confessed, Sergeant Short said. He expects charges to be filed against the driver within the next week. The driver’s identity will be released once she is charged. She faces possible felony hip-skip charges as well charges for driving with a suspended license, he said.
“We now know Zaide is going to make it. That was one of the things we were waiting on,” he said.
After the accident, Ms. Narmanli was transported by air ambulance to St. Vincent for treatment. “Everybody who saw the CT scan did not expect her to survive — that’s how critical it was,” said Dr. John Leskovan, trauma surgeon.
Her brain was swelling and there were multiple areas of bleeding and bruising inside.
The only way they could save her life was to perform a decompressive craniectomy, where part of the skull is removed to alleviate the pressure, Dr. Leskovan said.
After the surgery “early on it was truly just watching and waiting very closely,” said Sheldon Glover, nurse and trauma coordinator at St. Vincent.
Ms. Narmanli’s sister, Fatma, had traveled with her from Turkey and was the only family by her side. She was also working at the Sandusky swim resort as a housekeeper. Mr. Glover said he felt for the two girls being here all alone, so far from home. Her sister said through an interpreter that it’s too painful to talk about those dark days.
Mr. Glover was with the sister as they made the first phone call to Ms. Narmanli’s father, back in Turkey, to tell him about the accident.
“I would have rather him be angry or yelled at me, instead he said ‘thank you and we trust you and we know she’s in good hands.’ Those were the first four sentences that he said to me,” Mr. Glover said.
Mr. Glover was overcome with emotion as he shared how close he has grown to the family. He also said he and the entire trauma team were amazed that Ms. Narmanli has twice come back from the brink of death.
The surgery was performed on July 4. The first few days were precarious as her condition seemed to worsen.
The Glasgow Coma Scale, or GCS, is a scoring system used to describe the level of consciousness in a person following a traumatic brain injury. It also is used to help gauge the severity of the injury.
“A person with a GCS of 3-4, 24 hours after the injury, has a 90 percent chance of dying or remaining in a permanent vegetative state. Zaide had a score of 3 during the first 24 hours. Her survivability was probably less than 1 percent,” said Erica Blake, a hospital spokesman.
“Everybody was deciding whether we were going to just withdraw support or were we going to go a different route,” Dr. Leskovan added.
Days later, there was the first hopeful sign. She opened her eyes and began following people around the room with her eyes, he said.
“We knew she wasn’t brain dead at that point,” he said.
Her parents and two other siblings arrived from Turkey a few days later. Their travel plans were delayed by a Turkish holiday which made it impossible to get emergency travel visas from the government.
Mr. Glover said he is not sure if it was luck or divine intervention but the family managed to leave Turkey just 32 hours before an attempted overthrow of the government on July 15.
“So they got out of the country in the nick of time,” he said.
Ms. Narmanli started getting better at a rate that defied the norm, hospital officials said. By the time her parents arrived, she was moving her arms and legs.
She was doing so well the doctors felt it was safe to remove her breathing tube just 13 days after the surgery. But then there was another setback.
The breathing tube had to be reinserted because she had developed a weak cough and had some trouble getting rid of secretions, Mr. Glover said.
Shortly after the tube was reinserted, she went into cardiac arrest. She essentially died and was brought back to life through CPR, Dr. Leskovan said.
“We were beating her heart for her,” Mr. Glover said.
The next day, Ms. Narmanli came back even stronger than before she flat lined and has continued to get stronger and stronger, Mr. Glover said.
She has many months of recovery ahead of her or “maybe days, I don’t know she keeps wowing us,” he said.
Ms. Narmanli was very healthy and in great physical shape before the accident, which certainly helped in her recovery, Mr. Glover said. All the doctors, nurses, and staff at the hospital also believe they received a helping hand from a divine source, he added.
“I will never forget her case,” Dr. Leskovan said.
Ms. Narmanli said through an interpreter that she is not sure what all the fuss is about. She is grateful to be alive but to her the recovery feels normal.
“It’s not a miracle. It’s just life,” she said.
She told her parents she wanted to stay in the United States because she had not had a chance to have her adventure. She was hit by the car just two weeks after arriving in Sandusky.
Her father, Yahya, however, was anxious to get home after living in a country for more than a month where he doesn’t speak the language and with no way to support his family.
“I believe it is a miracle we are standing here right now,” he said through an interpreter and fighting back tears. “It was God’s decision to keep her alive.”
If she were a U.S. citizen, Ms. Narmanli would have been transferred to a rehabilitation facility to continue her recovery weeks ago, hospital officials said. Her unique situation as a guest worker, here on a temporary visa, created a complicated situation for the Mercy officials as her medical costs continued to climb.
It’s possible some of her medical bills could eventually be covered by auto insurance tied to the vehicle that struck her in Sandusky.
“Zaide’s travel insurance will cover portions of her medical expenses,” Ms. Blake said. She also will be entitled to file a claim with the Ohio Attorney General’s victims of crime compensation program, Sergeant Short said.
Ms. Blake could not provide an exact total for Ms. Narmanli’s hospital stay because the bills are still being processed. Ms. Narmanli spent a month in the intensive care unit, Ms. Blake said. According to the hospital’s retail price rate sheet, ICU is billed at nearly $10,000 per day. In addition, she had several major costly surgeries.
The entire family left Toledo last week and Ms. Narmanli was transferred to a hospital in Istanbul to complete her recovery.
“We’re so excited that despite her immense injuries and her initial bleak prognosis, she was able to walk out of the hospital and fly home,” Ms. Blake said.
Ms. Narmanli hopes to come back next year, and to have a chance to travel and explore the United States.
“Who knows, maybe she’ll come back and give us all high fives in six months,” Mr. Glover said.
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