Injured Kennewick teen overwhelmed by support

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldAugust 5, 2013 

Cassidy Almquist, 18, of Kennewick, is seen at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center holding flowers from family friend Jantzen Filbrun, 17. Almquist was injured after falling more than 40 feet from a rope swing. It could be a year before doctors know how much she'll be able to recover from her injuries, which include a crushed vertebrae, broken sternum, pelvis, leg and elbow.

COURTESY OF MARK ALMQUIST

Cassidy Almquist can't believe what people have been doing for her.

The almost 18-year-old Kennewick student has been hospitalized since she was seriously hurt in a fall from a rope swing at a church camp in mid-July.

Some of her friends collected more than $7,200 to help pay her medical bills. An ice cream truck owned by a teacher at her church raised another $4,000. Some cousins donated $233 they raised selling lemonade. And three Dutch Bros. coffee stands in Kennewick raised almost $30,000 in one day.

"I don't understand. I was just overwhelmed," Cassidy told the Herald on Monday from her bed at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center. "I would have been fine if nobody did anything for me but pray for me."

Suffering from several broken bones and unable to walk, Cassidy has a long road to recovery. She crushed vertebra in her spine when she fell 40 to 50 feet on July 15 while volunteering at a church camp in Eastern Oregon. She also broke her sternum, pelvis, a lower leg and an elbow.

She was in surgery for 12 hours shortly after arriving at Harborview. Doctors initially thought she severed her spinal cord, but later discovered it still was intact.

Cassidy could be back in the Tri-Cities in a week or two to rest, but will then have to head back to Harborview for physical and occupational therapy sessions for up to a month. Her father, Mark Almquist, said it could be a year before doctors fully know how much she can recover from her injuries.

Cassidy said she's excited to return home. "I'm ready to get back to a routine."

Her dad said aspects of her recovery have been miraculous, including a lack of swelling after a surgeon rebuilt her broken elbow. She gradually has regained feeling in her lower body, including the ability to shift her hips.

Cassidy's family hopes she'll be able to return to Southridge High School for her senior year not too late into the fall semester.

Through it all the teenager has remained upbeat and smiling -- a quality family and friends believe is why people have rallied so strongly to her side.

"Her character and personality are contagious," said Matt Kessie, youth pastor at Calvary Chapel in Kennewick, who has known Cassidy for years. "She's so much fun to be around. I'm always laughing. She's a beautiful singer."

People have come out of the woodwork to support her, Kessie said, particularly through a Facebook page dedicated to her.

The "Praying for Cassidy" Facebook page had 1,000 "likes" within 24 hours, Kessie said. It had more than 13,000 "likes" by Monday afternoon.

Alongside regular posts requesting prayers, it is filled with news about efforts to raise money to help pay for Cassidy's care, including an auction scheduled for Aug. 15.

Cassidy's parents haven't been involved in any of the fundraising, which is being independently organized by well-wishers, they said.

Some people have set up yard sales, Mark Almquist said. The youth group at Calvary Chapel, which Cassidy has led for the past year, is giving out T-shirts to collect donations. A work crew will visit the family's home to help modify it to meet Cassidy's needs.

"It's her friends who lit the fire," he said.

The money will be used to help Cassidy live with her injuries, her father said, including a wheelchair and other medical equipment. It could also be used to buy a vehicle that would be easier for her to ride in or to drive.

Cassidy and the rest of the family which includes four siblings knows there will be dark days and bumps in the coming weeks and months, Mark Almquist said.

His daughter is dealing with pain and, even with a good recovery, will have to deal with the consequences of her accident for the rest of her life.

"This is very difficult," said Almquist, who's a private investigator.

But Cassidy is doing her best to remain cheerful and positive. She's thinking about what the accident can teach her and others, her father said. Kessie said he visited her at Harborview on Friday and her faith hasn't been shaken.

One of the latest posts to the Facebook page is a video of her and family friend Jantzen Filbrun, 17. She's in her bed with a few stuffed animals, singing a hymn as Jantzen plays guitar.

"Things like this show us what's really important," Kessie said.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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