A woman whose skull was crushed in the Indiana State Fair stage collapse last August is showing remarkable signs of recovery after the traumatic brain injury she received left her in a coma and on life support.
According to the Associated Press, 30-year-old Andrea Vellinga of Pendleton, Indiana, may attribute her recovery to a traumatic brain injury experiment called SyNAPSe, in which her family enrolled her hours after the falling stage crushed her skull.
The SyNAPSe trial uses progesterone, a pregnancy hormone, to help reduce brain swelling and improve memory in patients suffering from a traumatic brain injury. However, according to the AP, it will be at least two years before doctors know if Ms. Vellinga received the progesterone or a placebo. Ms. Vellinga is one of about 1,200 patients worldwide participating in the SyNAPSe study.
Ms. Vellinga, who is married and has a young daughter, is now able to walk again and talk. In May she plans on walking in 5-kilometer event in her hometown to mark her 31st birthday. Another tell-tale sign of her dramatic progress is her use of humor and the return of her normally talkative self. She told the AP about an April Fool’s Day prank she played on her mother.
“I called my mom and told her I was pregnant,” Ms. Vellinga told the AP. “She didn’t think it was funny either.”
Ms. Vellinga remains in a Michigan rehabilitation facility for treatment but plans to return home in May. She told the AP that her daughter helps her through her rehab.
“She holds my hand when we walk. She says, ‘Mommy, I don’t want you to fall and hit your head again,'” Vellinga said. “She always says, ‘Mommy, no more concerts, indoors or outdoors.'”
That may be some good advice, considering the dangers of outdoor concert venues like the one at the Indiana State Fair. The collapse of the concert stage there exposes a lack of caution and regulation in the outdoor concert industry.
Fair organizers had just made the decision to cancel the second part of a concert in which Sugarland was to perform when a strong gust of wind began to rattle the stage structure. The roof and scaffolding tumbled onto the crowd before any evacuations took place, killing five people and injuring dozens more.
Outdoor concerts have exploded in size and popularity throughout the country over the last 20 years, creating a swiftly burgeoning multi-billion-dollar industry that is not held to safety standards by government regulation.
What once were relatively small stage-and-canvas-roof shows with a few multicolored lights have evolved into monumental productions incorporating tons of lighting, video, sound, and special effects equipment that are hauled around in semi-trucks and set up in break-neck speed. Millions of dollars are usually at stake in these shows, leaving organizers averse to canceling performances because of bad weather until the very last second.
Even indoor concert events that use makeshift gear can be hazardous without regulations mandating safety standards.