Local woman recovering after bad boating accident
April Wheeler of Bryant, formerly of Haskell, currently is hospitalized at UAMS in Little Rock for multiple injuries she suffered in a boating accident late Saturday afternoon on Lake Hamilton.
According to a family member, Wheeler, 27, was sitting at the front of the craft "when the boat hit a large wake."
"It caused her to lose balance and flip over off the front of the boat," said Wheeler's sister, Courtney Shoptaw. "The boat ran over her and the propeller hit her."
Wheeler was with her boyfriend, Cody Bullock, and some friends at the time of the incident.
"Two strangers on a nearby party barge saw her fall and watched for her to come up," Shoptaw said. "All she could say was 'help' — she couldn't use her left side.
"Two people from the party barge jumped in the water at the same time as Cody," she said. "They got her back on the boat."
Shoptaw said one person on the party barge happened to be a nurse practitioner "who knew what to do for her. She started packing her injuries with ice and towels and probably saved her."
"That kept her from losing too much blood," she said.
Shoptaw said "the paramedics got there really quickly after they called 911."
Wheeler has undergone three surgeries, Shoptaw noted. "Her spleen was removed, and they put a plate and pin in her pelvis, which was broken, and screws in her shoulder.
"Her spleen was severed and that caused her lungs to collapse," she said.
Shoptaw said Wheeler "has a broken femur, a cracked or broken scapula on the left side and 12 broken ribs. She has her arm in a sling following surgery Monday, but she began physical therapy Tuesday."
Shoptaw said Wheeler has received "a lot of transfusions, but they were able to close all her wounds. She has four — maybe five — large wounds on left side around her waist area and around her back and pelvis. It's really bad."
Wheeler was taken initially to St. Joseph's Mercy Health Center in Hot Springs, where a chest tube was put in to inflate her lungs and where her spleen was removed, Shoptaw said.
"They transferred her to UAMS about 1 a.m. Sunday and did her second surgery at 4 a.m. Her third surgery was done Monday morning."
Shoptaw said her sister is "alert today. She's able to talk a little, but she's extremely exhausted. She's been through an ordeal."
Wheeler now can receive a clear liquid diet after having had nothing since the accident, Shoptaw said.
"She's in better spirits now, but she's overwhelmed because of so much positive support. So many people are wanting to do things for her. They've sent so many messages and signs of support."
Shoptaw said a concert to raise funds to assist Wheeler with her medical expenses is scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Luigi's in Bryant.
Performing at the event will be Josh Ivy.
Another fundraiser is scheduled Tuesday night at Gino's in Benton. This will be a karaoke night, set from 8 p.m. until closing.
Noting that the entire family is extremely sports-minded, Shoptaw said a benefit softball tournament is being planned for Bernard Holland Park. Details will be announced.
"My sister is huge into softball," she said. "She's a commissioner for youth softball and loves anything athletic. She loves outdoor sports and hunting and fishing."
Wheeler is the daughter of Levonne Zuber and Tracey Zuber of Mabelvale and the late Elmer Wheeler of Benton.
She has seven brothers and sisters: Courtney Shoptaw, Jacob Wheeler and Joshua Wheeler, all of Haskell; Michael Wheeler of Alexander; David Wheeler of Benton; Tami Meredith of Pensacola, Fla.; and Heather Sikora of Wisconsin. She also has 17 nieces and nephews.
Wheeler was initially hospitalized in the intensive care unit at UAMS, but now is in a step-down unit, her sister said.