HARTLAND — Three months ago, a spur-of-the-moment ride on a four-wheeled, all-terrain-vehicle nearly cost Betsy Buker her life.
Tonight, Buker will take the opportunity at a benefit supper in her honor to thank the community, her friends and family for the care and support that she says got her through months of hospitalization and recovery.
“I want to openly thank the community for the unbelievable support from this town, from everyone,” she said in a telephone interview this week.
The Hartland-St. Albans Ambulance Service will host a beef stew and turkey stew supper with biscuits and pie at the Hartland Consolidated School from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Tickets are $4 for adults, $3 for children ages six to 12, and free for children under age six. Tickets for a community raffle for donations and gift certificates are also on sale.
On Oct. 16, Buker and a friend, Vivian Davis, hopped aboard a four-wheeler at her brother Bernie’s property and headed out on a familiar trail, an abandoned railroad bed south of Hartland village. It was just dusk and visibility was fading, she said, but the last thing she expected was to strike a cable blocking the trail. The ATV struck the cable, knocking both women off the machine. Buker, who was operating the vehicle, also sustained severe internal injuries from coming with in contact with the cable during the collision. Fortunately for both women, Davis was not hurt as severely, and she was able to go for help.
“I knew I was hurt badly. It never occurred to me that it could be fatal,” said Buker, a 22-year-old nursing student.
The Buker family has been part of the Hartland-St. Albans Ambulance Service for many years. Hadley Buker, Betsy’s father, served as director of the service periodically up until his recent resignation. Buker says the familiarity with the service was a comfort that helped her through the first few hours.
“I remember my hands were so cold. I wish I knew who held my hand. It was just so comforting,” she said.
Ella Buker, Betsy’s mother, arrived at the scene before Betsy was taken to Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield.
“She was great. I’m not sure I could do the same thing in a similar situation. She comforted me more than anything else. I had no worries,” Buker added.
The treatment that October evening was just a taste of what was to come.
At the Pittsfield hospital, the medical staff, some of whom Buker had worked with previously, stabilized her before she was transferred to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. Buker emphasized throughout her interview, the medical personnel wherever she has been treated have been wonderful. She credits the nurses at EMMC and her surgeon Dr. Michelle Toder for making her recuperation bearable.
Her recovery has included several surgeries to remove damaged organs and repair what remained. There is more surgery to come before she can resume her life and return to her nursing studies, she said.
“I have a whole new map of my belly. I’m like no one else,” she said, explaining how the cable severed her colon in two places, and damaged most of it beyond repair. The damage also caused the removal of her pancreas, gall bladder, appendix, a portion of her stomach and small intestines. Since October, she has relied heavily on a feeding tube making her unable to eat solid food for more than a month in two different episodes.
Through it all, “my parents have been wonderful,” she said. Their support included staying nights with her at the hospital when she didn’t want to be alone. They would often rise early and leave Bangor to go to work back in Hartland, she said. Over the holidays, her brother joined them one night so they could all be together.
Buker’s philosophy is: everything happens for a reason. For her family, the accident was something to bring them closer.