Jordan Hooper and Carlee Blue, both 22-year-old Tellico Plains residents, were severely wounded in a Jan. 4 West Yellowstone, Montana, snowmobile accident that has required months of physical therapy at Blount Memorial Hospital’s rehabilitation center.
Hooper and Blue were only on Day 4 of what was supposed to be a two-week road trip to different national parks across the country when they were rescued after the snowmobile they both were riding left the Two Top Trail path and struck a tree.
It had snowed a lot the night before, and while they were on a compacted snow trail, their snowmobile clipped some of the loose snow while coming around a curve and jerked them off the trail and into the woods, Hooper recalled.
“I was mostly in shock and worried about if Carlee was OK,” she said. “Then I began wondering if we were going to get to continue the rest of our trip. We had a bunch of other places we were planning on going to.”
Both of the girls sustained multiple bodily injuries. Hooper suffered a broken tibia and femur in the left leg, a ruptured ACL in her knee and fractured pelvis in multiple places. Blue sustained a concussion, dislocated right knee, sprained left ankle, sprained left wrist, torn MPFL (medial patellofemeral ligament) in the right knee and tore her femoral cartilage in the left leg.
Blue recovered from some of her injuries but continues to suffer from a concussion.
“My concussion was actually really bad — it’s been three months and I still have not been cleared to drive,” Blue said. “It is super frustrating, and unfortunately it forced me to have to quit my job, but cognitive therapy has allowed me to learn how to think better. I notice myself taking time to think before I do things.”
Blue’s condition has improved by working with Krystal Clough, a physical therapist at Blount Memorial Total Rehabilitation.
“When she first started physical therapy for her concussion, she was having severe symptoms that impacted her ability to concentrate on her schoolwork and even perform simple everyday tasks,” Clough said. “It has been amazing to see her progress in just a few weeks. She’s a real go-getter and has worked really hard to get back to normal. She comes in ready to be challenged and it really shows.”
Hooper’s ruptured ACL also landed her at BMC’s rehab center.
While Hooper wasn’t able to get her ACL surgery until 11 weeks after the accident, she said she never lost hope in a full recovery.
“This obstacle was challenging, but rewarding. I have definitely noticed how capable our bodies are and how far we can push them with rehabilitation,” Hooper said. “Your body can do a lot more than you think.”
Cindy Ellis, Total Rehabilitation certified athletic trainer and physical therapist assistant, has witnessed Hooper’s path to recovery.
“When she first came to us, she struggled getting her knee range of motion due to pain and swelling,” Ellis said. “Getting her into our aquatic therapy pool was the best medicine for her. She could walk without pain, and her knee range of motion improved significantly. I was so proud to see all of her hard work pay off, the progress she has made, and her amazing attitude as she has persevered.”
Blue and Hooper have spent months in physical therapy.
Hooper still has four to five months left in ACL rehab before she is expected to make a full recovery. Blue recently finished her cognitive and vestibular rehabilitation therapy, and continues to do home exercises for her leg.
Blue is on track to graduate from the University of Alabama in May with a degree in human development. Blue and Hooper have plans to move back to Orlando, Florida, later this year to live out their dream of working for Disney World, where they originally met a few years ago while attending the Disney College Program.
Hooper graduated from Carson-Newman in 2019 with a degree in communications.