Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Jan. 29, 2001

After 10 surgeries, boy in snowmobile accident is OK

By Lynda Jensen

In a cloud of snow, Brett Relander's life changed.

The Howard Lake youth was riding snowmobiles with his father, Ted, when he was struck by a car at Wright County Road 6 in Middleville Township Dec. 29.

"We'd gone out to Cokato and were on the last leg of our trip," Ted Relander said of that afternoon.

Brett, 12, asked if he could take the lead, since he just completed a snowmobile safety course three weeks earlier, Ted said. "He was using his hand signals and everything," he said.

Brett approached an intersection along County Road 6. "For some reason, he felt he had to cross," Ted said. "He just thought he was being a big boy," he said.

Brett waited for a truck, and then proceeded across.

Unbeknownst to Brett, the white cloud of snow trailing behind the truck was hiding a white Dodge Dynasty, without its lights on.

The impact from being struck by the car resulted in two minor skull fractures and broke his left leg in four places, Ted said.

"He was unconscious and I wasn't sure he was breathing," Ted said. "He came to in my arms."

A Howard Lake rescue team showed up quick, Ted said. "They had a lot to do with saving his life."

Brett was taken to Buffalo Hospital and then airlifted to North Memorial Hospital, Robbinsdale, where he's been ever since.

At first, he spent three days in intensive care. He was listed in critical condition. "He didn't know anybody," Ted described his son's disorientation.

The Relanders spent every day since then at North Memorial, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are hoping to come home soon.

Brett's head swelled from the skull fractures and he was in a lot of pain when he arrived at North Memorial.

His left leg has been the focus of 10 surgeries - one every three or four days - since the accident, Ted said. His last surgery was Jan. 24.

The foot sustained trauma and the muscle tissue started to die, Ted said. Surgeons had to clean out his veins because there was no circulation there, Ted said.

Initially, doctors thought Brett would lose his left foot, Ted said.

However, the tissue started to grow again, Ted said.

Surgeons then started skin grafting.

Brett has six specialists, including a bone specialist. In addition to the foot injury, there were lacerations around his left knee. Two rods were inserted in his leg, in the upper and lower portions.

"His bones are healing really well," Ted said.

Brett's teacher, Chad Gagnon, described him as an outgoing "people" person who loves outdoor sports. "He's your typical, normal boy," Gagnon said.

Looking back, Ted said that he thinks sometimes all the training and caution in the world from a parent, sometimes, just isn't enough.

The Relanders thank God for Brett's life and for the community they call home, Ted said.

"They call it an accident," Ted said. "That's the only way to explain it."

"He's going to be OK."

Benefit bowl for Brett

"I guess you really find out where home is," commented Ted Relander about the outpouring of love and support from Waverly, Howard Lake, the Relanders' church, neighbors, and friends.

In the next few weeks, a fleet of fourth-through-sixth graders from Humphrey Elementary will be obtaining pledges for a "Bowl-a-thon" benefit for Brett Relander. The students will be asking for "per pin" pledges or cash donations.

The benefit "Bowl-a-thon" will be Sunday., Feb. 11 at the Lake Bowl in Howard Lake, Highway 12. Preregistration is required so that Vern and Charity Kleve, owners of Lake Bowl, can properly staff the event. One hundred percent of proceeds will be donated to medical costs for the Relander family.

Children only are welcome to bowl at noon or 2:30 p.m., and adults only at 5 p.m., Vern Kleve said. The event is open to the public.

To register, contact Mary Pettit at 320-543-3987. For those who wish to send a donation, it can be mailed to: Mary Pettit, 1215 Shoreline Drive, Howard Lake, MN 55349.

A dinner and raffle is also being planned in March, Mary Pettit said.

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