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A patient hurt in a horse accident is bid farewell by Billings Clinic with joy



Billings, Montana – The patient and a group of doctors at the Billings Clinic fought valiantly and survived. Two months ago, a horse pulled Ernie Otoupalick, leaving him with serious injuries. His family and several medical professionals believed he wouldn’t survive it. He pulled through and was transferred to a long-term care facility on Wednesday, eight weeks after his ordeal, to continue his treatment. Otoupalik resides close to Missoula in Arlee. While elk hunting close to Roy, his horse hurt him. His life was spared by Lewistown doctors. After that, he was flown to Billings Clinic. He is recuperating, but he still needs to undergo certain treatments.

“Thanks all of you, see you all later,” Otoupalik said the Billings Clinic staff that had been taking care of him. “They were so much like family. They were awesome.”

Near Roy, Otoupalik sustained damage. His foot became wedged in the stirrup as his horse lost her balance on a precipitous hillside.

“So she looked down at me and she got scared and took off running,” Otoupalik said. “And so you know, she dragged me for like a half a mile before I got free of the stirrup.”

He was taken in an ambulance 45 minutes from Roy to a hospital in Lewistown after suffering many life-threatening wounds.

“If I can just give some absolute credit to them,” said Dr. Michael Engelhart, Billings Clinic trauma medical director. “They saved his life.”

When Otoupalik arrived at the Billings Clinic Trauma Center, Engelhart started treating him there.

“We had mobilized all the teams,” Engelhart said. “He needed to go to the radiology area first to stop any bleeding in his pelvis, then directly to the operating room to fix life-saving injuries to his pelvis, his bladder, and his rectum.”

Engelhart had the opportunity to speak with Ernie throughout the previous two months when he was spending time in the ICU and the surgery room.

“He has a zest for life and no matter what, he doesn’t give up,” Engelhart said.

Many people, including the doctor, developed feelings for Ernie Otoupalik. About 50 employees of the Billings Clinic cheered as the AMR team carried him to the ambulance. Later, his daughter talked with us about the farewell.

“Very emotional and great staff,” said Cami Otloupalik. “God’s been doing miracles for us this whole journey and being here was part of that miracle.”

“Wow,” Otoupalik said. “What a crew. What a crew.”

Otoupalik will visit Billings Clinic again from time to time while he recovers to receive additional care.

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