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Nursing Student Bounces Back After Boating Accident

Nursing Student Bounces Back After Boating Accident

By Tyler Strand | IOWA Magazine | 03/2020

College of Nursing student and Alpha Phi member Rylee Petitgout finds support from the UI community after a devastating accident.

Preparing for bed on June 24, 2018, Janine Petitgout (BSN ′90, MA ′94, DNP ′14) received the call every mother fears.

Her daughter, Rylee, was involved in a serious boating accident, and her condition remained uncertain. Struck by a propeller that severed muscles, tissues, and nerves, and broke bones on her right side, Rylee was taken to the emergency room at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and flown to Mayo Clinic, where she spent seven weeks and underwent 26 surgeries.

The Iowa City native returned home one week before the start of her first year at the UI—determined to proceed with her plan to pursue a nursing degree and rush for a sorority. "For seven weeks, she lost full control of her life," says Janine. "As parents we felt the only way to give her control back was to have her follow her dreams and go to college as if nothing happened. She guided us to help her become successful."

Undergoing daily physical therapy, Rylee started the semester with a catheter inserted into her left arm, where antibiotics were administered every day by her mother, a nurse practitioner at UI Stead Family Children's Hospital. Rylee's right arm was stabilized by a metal fixator with pins that held her bones in place, while she used a crutch under her left arm to get around. As Rylee worked to regain functionality in her dominant hand, the former dancer learned to use her left hand for writing, eating, and brushing her teeth.

Numerous people at the UI eased her transition, including best friend and roommate Belle Parker, who carried her dinner tray, assisted her on walks, and helped her process everything that happened. Rylee's College of Nursing advisor, Linda Myers, tailored her class schedule, allowing her to take online courses in her Catlett Hall dorm room, complete tests at Student Disability Services, and receive notes from her classes. At rush that fall, Rylee joined Alpha Phi after many sororities accommodated her needs, including by placing ramps near their house entries.

Balancing a full class load with additional surgeries at Mayo and many hours of therapy, Rylee made the Dean's List that fall and continues to excel academically and socially. 

Click here to read the full article in IOWA Magazine

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Posted On: 
Mar 17th, 2020