Crash victim is on the mend
Two days after she came out of an induced coma, April Krouskoupf was thirsty.
Tubes stuck in her nose and arms not only provided her nourishment, but also kept the 22-year-old South Lake Tahoe preschool teacher fed and hydrated.
For 25 days, she had been purposely kept unconscious, hooked to machines that kept her collapsed lungs moving. A breathing tube had been inserted into her windpipe. Any amount of water to her throat would put April at risk of pneumonia.
In a frustrating fit of cotton mouth, April pulled the tubes out of her nose. She wanted to talk. She wanted a drink of water.
“I was angry,” April recalls. “You don’t realize how much you appreciate water until you don’t have it.”
Nurses put the intravenous feeding tubes back into body. Her father dabbed her lips with a moist sponge. April took the sponge with her lips and sucked on it.
It was yet another moment in the 37-day ordeal that Jay Krouskoupf – a man with an uncanny sense of humor that puts him in control of most situations – felt helpless.
* * *
April doesn’t remember much about the early morning of Saturday, Sept. 22, other than she had been bowling and drinking the night before with her roommate, 24-year-old Patrick Curtis.
She remembers four pitchers of beer were ordered among several people at the bowling alley. She remembers going to a bar with Curtis, having a shot with him and a cocktail before playing a game of pool. She said she remembers a girlfriend of Curtis’ showing up at the bar.
That’s where it gets hazy. The last thing April remembers was wanting to walk home.
* * *
It was after 1 a.m. when police arrived at 10th Avenue and Julie Street. There, they found the black 1971 Chevy Nova that Curtis had been driving, smashed into a telephone pole.
The passenger side, where April sat, took the most damage, according to police. She was not wearing a seat belt.
April was taken to Barton Memorial Hospital, then flown to Renown Medical Center. Curtis, who didn’t receive major injuries, told officers that he and April had been drinking, according to police.
Curtis had a previous misdemeanor driving under the influence conviction in 2004, according to a police report that was provided to April.
He told police officers that his driving privileges were suspended at the time of the crash because he had not completed his DUI classes from the earlier offense, according to the police report.
Curtis’ blood alcohol level was 0.16, the report stated; April’s, drawn at the hospital, was 0.17.
Jay Krouskoupf and April’s mother, Lisa, were by their daughter’s bedside that night and for the weeks ahead. Family and friends also visited. April suffered two punctured lungs, liver damage, fractured ribs, broken teeth and a partially bit-off tongue that was sewn back on.
“She is in the best place she can be in right now,” Jay told the Tribune on Sept. 24. “I have faith that she is going to be all right. She’s a tough girl.”
* * *
With April’s trauma care doctor John Watson, giving the OK to take her off life support because her lungs had gained enough strength to work on their own, the induced coma April had been in for 25 days was lifted Oct. 16.
Consciousness weaved in between hallucinations as she was waking. April knew she was in a hospital but thought the hospital was Barton. She says she recalls that at some point during her coma, she knew she was in a hospital. But that’s all she remembers.
April opened her eyes and saw a nurse. The nurse asked if she remembered her name. April nodded yes. The nurse then told her she was in the Reno hospital, Renown, because of a car accident.
* * *
Out of the 37 days she was hospitalized, 25 of those being in the coma, the final six days were in recovery outside of the ICU. April returned home Oct. 28.
“The doctor told us that in his 25 years, he had never seen such a quick recovery,” her father recalled the doctor saying. Watson was unavailable for comment.
Alive and on the path of recovery, April hopes to be back to work this summer as a preschool teacher at Kindertown in South Lake Tahoe. She remains weak, she says, but each day gets better, gaining strength in her lungs and in her confidence.
“Seeing the kids has really helped,” she said of her recent visit to the preschool.
* * *
In traumatic events such as this, emotional strain can be relentless. Feelings of helplessness surface, especially when one has it in them to go back to the way things once were. But things never will be quite the same, she said.
Added to the physical and emotional stress is another reality: The financial burden of the car crash. April was weeks away from getting medical insurance, she said. In fact, she had done some insurance policy paperwork a few weeks before the accident, only to learn she had filled out the wrong paperwork.
The cost of April’s recovery from the crash is around $623,000 “and some change,” her father said.
Fundraisers have been established around South Lake Tahoe. A spaghetti feed put on by Maria Crist, owner of Kindertown, raised about $3,700. Collection boxes with April’s photograph on them were placed around town and raised around $5,000. Calvary Chapel of South Lake Tahoe paid for April’s November rent. Unable to work, April and her family feel the final stress mounting.
“What can we do right now? We can’t do much. We have to let justice take its course,” her father said.
Justice could come in the form of restitution costs associated with the crash, he added.
* * *
Arraigned in El Dorado County Superior Court on Nov. 7, Patrick Curtis faces 16 months to three years in prison if convicted of the charge of felony drunk driving causing injury. Curtis could receive an additional six months if convicted of the charge of driving on a suspended license. Judge Jerald Lasarow scheduled a pre-preliminary hearing in the case for Dec. 10.
However, Curtis’ attorney, Paul Palant, said he plans to ask for a continuance because of a prior commitment to attend a legal education seminar. Palant said he hasn’t reviewed the police report and declined to comment on the matter.
Cautious when describing her thoughts about Curtis, April said she was too intoxicated to make a sound judgment that night and regrets getting into the car with him. In the past, she has called her mother for a ride whenever she’s been with someone who has had too much to drink.
As for her own experience and the emotional weight of it for herself, her family and Curtis and his family, April wants people to re-evaluate their lives and lifestyles, especially in Tahoe, known as a drinking and partying town.
“People just need to make better decisions and think twice about the amount of alcohol they consume,” she said. “I don’t feel like a different person, but I feel like I got a second chance.”
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