Utah woman loses both legs after car crash in Africa during humanitarian mission

Posted at 9:38 PM, Mar 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-28 23:59:59-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A Providence woman on a humanitarian mission is now in dire need of help after losing both legs in a car accident.

Paula Gillsdorf-Barker is known for her humanitarian service. She travels across the world to help others.

A week ago she landed in Africa for a two-week mission. Hours later the taxi she was in crashed, causing major damage to her legs.

“You wonder why someone has to go through something like that,” said Eric Stauffer, family friend and designated family spokesman.

After the crash Paula was rushed to an area hospital.

“They casted the backs of the legs and left the compound fractures open wrapped them and realized there was not much she could do,” Stauffer said.

Paula was flown to Paris Saturday where the next morning she had surgery.  When she woke up she learned surgeons had to take extreme action.

“The surgeon saw the situation the damage to the soft tissue was so extreme and the nerves and the bones were just shattered and they knew there was no anything they could,” Stauffer said.

Paula's legs were amputated from the knee down.

“This will be a complete change of lifestyle for her. She runs a day care out of her home and lives in a two-story home with the bedrooms all on the second floor,” Stauffer said.

A day after surgery, Paula’s three children and family friends Skyped with her in her Paris hospital room.

“She was smiling and crying and laughing. I asked her if she was in pain and she said no ‘they’re taking care of me,’” Stauffer said.

Now the family is faced with medical bills and trying to figure out how to get Paula home. In her condition she can't fly commercial and a private flight can cost more than $70,000. Now her small community she has spent years helping, is helping her.

“She just expressed through tears extreme gratitude and I think she really, really feels the love obviously this community has for her” Stauffer said.

If you would like to help, visit

Zions bank mention Paula Gillsdorf-Barker or Routing Number 124000054 and account number 980572226.