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Deputy Duit making full recovery

By Staff | Nov 29, 2010

Todd Duit (right) talks with Sheriff Mike Gormley at the annual Blue Earth Middle School Harvest Dinner.

Your wife has a day off from work. So, you and she spend Friday running errands.

On Tuesday, lunch means going to an annual Thanksgiving meal served at Blue Earth Middle School.

To most, that may not sound very exciting.

Unless, you’re 41-year-old Todd Duit of Winnebago.

Two months ago, the 13-year Faribault County deputy lay unconscious in a Kentucky hospital fighting for his life.

The Duit family took this family photo on Nov. 12, nearly three months after an Aug. 17 motorcycle accident in Kentucky hospitalized Todd until Oct. 4.

“I’m lucky to be in the condition I’m in. What happened put a real twist on my life,” he says. “I’m just happy to be alive.”

On Aug. 17, Duit and friend Jason Christenson are riding their motorcycles on Interstate 64 near Frankfort, Ky.

They are heading to Bristol, Tenn., for the NASCAR Sprint Cup races.

They’re less than two hours from their destination when a car in front of Duit swerves out of control and crashes into a concrete wall.

Duit is thrown from his bike as he tries to avoid the crash.

“I was told my body was lying in the middle of the freeway. Luckily, a guy stopped traffic or I would have been run over,” he says.

Christenson was behind Duit and could see the car going out of control .

“All I could do was hope that what was going to happen, didn’t,” he says.

“When Todd went down all I could think of was getting to him as quick as possible. Being so far away from home I felt helpless,” he adds.

Duit’s wife, Jody, has dropped off the couple’s 15-year-old son, Brett, at football practice in Blue Earth. She’s on the city’s walking trail when she gets a phone call from Christenson.

“I went numb. I called my sister right away,” she says. “I was in total shock and wasn’t making much sense.”

Jody regains her composure and calls her mother-in-law Cheryl Newville, who lives in Apache Junction, Ariz.

By 8:30 p.m. — some 2 1/2 hours after hearing the news — Jody, her son and 22-year-old daughter Jessica are boarding a private plane in Albert Lea.

They’re on their way to Lexington, Ky., where Todd was airlifted to the University of Kentucky Medical Center.

“I can’t say enough about what Sheriff (Mike) Gormley and Chief Deputy Scott Adams did,” says Todd. “If they hadn’t found a plane, Mike says he would have driven them to Kentucky.”

When they get to the hospital, Jody and the children aren’t able to see Todd right away. He’s in the emergency room where doctors have been working on him for several hours.

“We had to wait a couple of hours before they took us back to where he was,” says Jody.

Todd has suffered traumatic brain injury and also has a broken collar bone.

Doctors insert a thin flexible tube to monitor intracranial pressure. Also, cerebral spinal fluid can be drained to lower the pressure and reduce swelling.

Todd also is put into a medically-induced coma to treat the severe head injuries.

By doing so, doctors hope slowing brain activity will give it the rest needed to help heal itself.

“When I talked to Todd his heart rate would go up and brain wave activity would increase,” says Jody.

To the family these were signs of hope, that Todd may be responding. But, doctors cautioned that causing too much stimulation could hamper recovery.

Jody has some experience dealing with patients who are seriously ill; working as a registered nurse in a Mankato clinic’s urgent care unit.

However, nothing could have prepared her for what was in store in coming weeks.

“I wanted to holler and pinch Todd. To do anything that would make him respond,” she says.

Back home, fundraisers are held and prayers are said in churches for the Duit family.

Todd says he’s humbled and overwhelmed by the support of local residents.

“The people in this county are amazing. There are a lot of good people who were there for my family when they needed help. I am forever grateful,” he says. “I didn’t expect that because of the type of work I do. You don’t make a lot of friends.”

After more than two weeks, Duit awakens from a coma. But, he still doesn’t recognize or respond to those around him.

On Sept. 9 he’s improved enough to be transferred to Bethesda Hospital, a long-term acute care facility in St. Paul.

After one week at Bethesda, there’s a breakthrough.

“I started to remember things and I knew who everyone at the hospital was. I didn’t have any memory loss or problems,” he says.

In the coming days there would be all kinds of therapy, speech/language; physical; and occupational.

By Oct. 4, Duit is well enough to be discharged.

“There’s nothing like being at home. After seeing the patients at Bethesda I knew this wasn’t the place I wanted to be,” he says.

While his wife and children were thrilled to have him back in Winnebago, Duit’s return was no big deal for the family’s two dogs, Maggie and Curly, and their cat Annie.

Duit’s life slowly is getting back to normal.

Jody puts together a “Honey Do List” from time to time.

“And, he doesn’t mind doing the laundry,” she jokes.

Duit’s goal is to return back to work. He says that will be up to doctors to decide if he does and when.

“I’ve received cards from people who said they miss not seeing me working as a deputy,” he says. “I’m itching to get back to work. I’ll just have to wait and see.”

A scar on Duit’s left hand is the only evidence he was in a serious accident.

Duit says what happened has changed his outlook on life and he vows never to ride a motorcycle again.

“I’m not saying anything bad against it. I just don’t want to take any risks of putting my family through this again,” he says.

He still goes to a local doctor and Bethesda for checkups. But, Duit insists he has no memory loss whatsoever.

“I remember everything about my life up to the accident,” he says.

“I have no problem remembering how to do my job and the people I have stopped,” he adds.

The Duit’s laugh at Todd’s last comment.

It’s in reference to a “no seatbelt” ticket he gave to someone.

If Duit resumes his duties as a deputy a certain reporter should take notice — he not only has a sense of humor, he hasn’t forgotten a thing.