Stiehler recounts being struck by car
Camden Fire Department Assistant Chief Robert Stiehler spent eight days in the hospital after being struck by a car when he was crossing Main Street.
"At 10:47 on a Sunday morning, everything changed," he said.
The accident happened Oct. 13, as Stiehler and his wife Mary stepped out into a Main Street crosswalk near Camden Embroidery. Stiehler said they were standing on the curb, with no cars in the parking spaces on either side of the crosswalk. A car traveling south stopped and he stepped into the road, waving his thanks to the driver.
2013 car versus
According to Camden Police reports, there have been three pedestrians struck in Camden in 2013, including Stiehler. The first happened July 6 on High Street, when Ellen Curran of Waitsfield, Vt., was jogging and Albert Moores of Camden pulled out of a driveway and struck her. She reported a minor injury and no charges were filed.
Stiehler was the second person to be struck this year.
Then, Nov. 2, Connie Melashenko of Great Falls, Mont., reportedly stepped into the path of a van driven by Peter Murphy of Lincolnville as she attempted to cross the street near Camden Opera House. She was taken to the hospital with a broken wrist; Murphy has not been charged.
"One of the things people need to remember is they are stepping out onto Route 1," Camden Fire Chief Chris Farley said.
So far in 2013, there have been 138 property damage accidents reported — accidents where no injury was reported — and 16 personal injury accidents. In 2012, 132 property damage accidents were reported and 21 personal injury accidents.
"I was a little bit ahead of Mary," he said, adding as he turned to wave thanks to the other oncoming driver, he was struck in the right hip and knocked to the pavement in front of the car.
"All of a sudden, I see him flying through the air," Mary Stiehler said, adding the driver who struck her husband appeared to be watching her gesturing at the occupied crosswalk.
"My body felt just like a top," Stiehler said.
He landed hard on his left side, scraping his nose on the tire of the vehicle that struck him. Then, for a moment, he lay there, with the tire filling his field of vision.
"I panicked that she was going to run over my head," Stiehler said.
Mary Stiehler, in the meantime, ran to her husband's side. As the driver, who police identified as Madeline Hamilton of Merrimack, N.H., allowed the car to roll forward after striking Stiehler, Mary pounded on the hood of the car with her purse, yelling at Hamilton to stop.
"If it hadn't have been for Mary, I'd be dead. She stopped the car, or [the driver] would have run over my head," Stiehler said.
Mary Stiehler tore several muscles in her back trying to stop the car, according to her husband. He said laying on the pavement, he could hear his pager summoning the ambulance and fire department, but above that, he could hear Mary.
As emergency workers arrived, along with police, Mary urged them toward Stiehler and the driver of the vehicle, who was not injured. Police summoned Hamilton on a charge of failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
"The pain was excruciating," Stiehler said, describing being moved into the ambulance.
He does not remember most of the ride to hospital, having lost consciousness. He awoke in the Pen Bay Medical Center emergency room, not knowing where he was, with doctors asking him to move his toes. While his right side appeared to function properly, Bob was not able to move his left side and doctors had trouble hearing his breathing on that side as well, he said.
Following a battery of tests, doctors discovered Stiehler did not break a single bone.
"They said I have the densest bones they've ever seen," Stiehler said with a laugh.
He did, however, tear numerous muscles.
"Nearly every muscle in my body," he said.
It took several days for him to regain feeling in his hands and most of his left side. In addition, he suffered a traumatic brain injury and is still undergoing tests to determine any lasting effects.
"I was pretty concerned before that things wouldn't work anymore," he said, noting damage to several of his spinal disks, including a cyst putting pressure on his spinal column. "It's getting a little better, I'm doing therapy, everything the doctors say."
Since being released from the hospital, Stiehler still is unable to lay flat or stand up straight without severe pain. He said he is grateful to Prince Furniture, which donated a leather recliner that allows him to sleep comfortably.
"I'm basically now doing everything I can to get better," Stiehler said.
Doctors estimate it will take two months for Stiehler to fully recover; but that estimate does not include any potential surgery. He said surgery may be needed to remove the cyst impacting his spinal cord if medications do not relieve the swelling.
Stiehler said he is not only grateful for the support of the fire department, West Bay Rotary and the community, but particularly to Andrew Lowe. He said Lowe spent nearly as many hours at the hospital as Mary and advocated for a longer stay when the hospital was ready to send a still-unable-to-walk Stiehler home. Fire Chief Chris Farley also spent hours at the hospital with the Stiehlers.
"I can't say enough about the chief, he was at the hospital every day. ... The fire service is like an extended family," Stiehler said, adding Rotary members also have been extremely helpful both in a financial and physical sense. "It's so nice to have peace of mind and not have to worry about that stuff."
Atlantic Engine Co. No. 2, a 501(C)(3) nonprofit, is hosting a benefit spaghetti dinner for the Stiehlers Saturday, Nov. 9, from 5 to 8 p.m. at First Congregation Church, 55 Elm St. Donations also are being accepted by mail to Atlantic Engine Co. No. 2, 31 Washington St., Camden ME 04843, note Bob Stiehler in the memo line; donations are tax deductible. Farley noted he plans to have a take-out option for the dinner, as seating is limited to 100 people at a time.
Funds raised during the dinner and donations collected will be given to the Stiehlers to help with medical costs as well as every day bills. Stiehler is self-employed as an electrician with RDS Electric in addition to serving as part-time assistant chief and is unable to work while he recovers.
"It takes a lot of energy to do basic things," the 53-year-old said.
As he continues to heal, he said he plans to bring a walker — mandated by his doctor for distances — to walk the halls of the public safety building.
"I'm optimistic about my outlook," he said.
Stiehler has been a member of Camden Fire Department since 2010, Mary also is a firefighter. Bob retired from Brunswick Fire Department as a captain before moving to Camden in 2008.
Courier Publications Editor Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(207) 236-8511 ext. 302
Stephanie has served as editor of Camden Herald since its return in April 2012.
Previously, she was editor of VillageSoup's Capital Weekly in Augusta and has worked a number of years in the newspaper business from southern Maine to Waldo County.
Outside the office, she enjoys reading, cooking and gardening.
Stephanie lives in Washington with her husband Jeff, four children, a dog named Chewbacca, a rabbit and two chickens.