Girls' recovery a long process

The road to recovery for the five Grand Haven teens involved in the horrific crash on Interstate 96 nearly two months ago is not a short one. Dani Michaels, Hannah DeVecht, Maddie Case and Emily Bogner have all returned to classes at the school, although at different levels of attendance. The fifth girl, Brittney Olds, remains in a rehabilitation hospital.
Becky Vargo
May 11, 2012

“They’re all at different places in their recovery — physical and emotional,” Grand Haven High School Principal Tracy Wilson said of the four who have returned to school. “They’re here as often as they can be, because of going to all of their different therapy and doctors appointments.”

Wilson said that Michaels, the least injured physically, returned to playing lacrosse as soon as doctors removed the cast from her arm.

DeVecht, who had foot and ankle problems, used crutches for a short time.

Both Bogner and Case suffered broken bones in their backs and used wheelchairs when they returned to school, Wilson said. They both wore what they referred to as turtle shell braces, which they recently shed.

“They are progressing beyond and quicker than what surgeons predicted,” Wilson said.

Both girls recently graduated to crutches, but Bogner is having some knee problems and could be back in a wheelchair after surgery, which was scheduled for today. Bogner also suffered a broken femur in the crash.

Wilson said the girls all suffered some degree of concussion.

“That hits them all differently,” she said. “Some are struggling with reading.”

Wilson said the emotional state of the girls has been a focus of school officials “to make sure we’re not overloading them.” Because the girls are high achievers, they become frustrated with anything that holds them back.

The teachers are all keeping tabs on the situation and are helping the girls prioritize what is most important at that time, the principal said.

“There are some AP tests being taken by some of them right now,” Wilson said. “So that’s the emphasis by the teachers. They are pushing back the priority of other class work.”

Wilson said there is the possibility that some of the girls might have to take an incomplete in a class or two.

“But our hope is to get as much done as we can, so they can have a complete summer to recover,” she said.

Credits-wise, all of the girls were in great shape as of the third trimester to graduate on time next year.

“We’re working with them where they’re at and trying to keep things in perspective,” Wilson said.

Meanwhile, Brittney Olds remains at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Center in Grand Rapids.

Family members wrote on Olds’ Care Page earlier this week that she went for her first ride in a car since the crash. They took her to Cold Stone Creamery for some ice cream.

Almost immediately after the crash, doctors placed Olds into a medically induced coma to help relieve pressure from her brain. Once she came out of the coma, therapy began and Olds continues to make progress.

“We talk about rehab/exercise and Britt seems to think we are not going after it aggressively enough,” wrote a family member on the Care Page.



I am not being critical here, but it seems like FERPA rules may come in to play when a principal reveals detailed information about students. Maybe they have given permission, but it is very interesting to get medical updates from a school principal. If this would have happened in a school bus maybe it would be different, but this was in a private vehicle that just happens to be going to a school event. In that case, does it make the school representative a spokesperson for the individuals.

It is also a bit concerning that the principal is revealing information about the student's attendance records and learning disabilities related to the crash.

Again, maybe the principal has been appointed by the families as the spokesperson, but it is strange. You can find information about FERPA at:


absolutely agree. she was never given permission to say these things. we, the families, ask that the public/press does a better job respecting our privacy.

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