AMERICAN FORK, Utah — For the first time, a young woman who fractured her skull while sledding is publicly sharing her experience.
Two years ago, Natalee Wells was sledding at Tibble Fork Reservoir in American Fork Canyon — a place families love to shred the slopes on their sleds.
“I was just up here in ‘the bowl’ back there sledding with some friends,” said Wells.
But that’s really all she can remember before her sled crashed.
“I went down a hill and hit a boulder at the bottom of the hill,” said Wells. “I ended up crushing the right side of my body.”
Among her injuries, Wells broke her upper arm and four ribs, cut her liver and fractured her skull.
Somehow, she was able to walk to the parking lot with the help of her friends, and they rushed her to the hospital.
Dr. Darin Willardson, an emergency physician with American Fork Hospital, helped care for Wells.
“I was amazed about how strong she is, but the injuries were just amazing too,” said Dr. Willardson. “It wasn’t just a small little thing — it was a life-threatening injury.”
Wells underwent surgery and spent five days in the intensive care unit.
Yet, within two months, she was almost fully recovered and back to playing soccer for Brigham Young University.
“It is a huge miracle and I am so grateful for how much I’ve been blessed, because I definitely shouldn’t be standing where I am today considering everything that happened,” said Wells.
Though she grew up in Utah and went sledding through her childhood, Wells said the accident made her realize she needed to be more aware of her surroundings while out and about.
Wells also emphasized the difference wearing a helmet would have made for her injury.
While revisiting the place she crashed, emergency crews were called out to the same spot for an accident.
A 16-year-old boy had been sledding “the bowl” when he crashed and cut his head significantly.
“It breaks my heart,” said Wells. “I hope the outcome was just the same as it was for me.
The sledder was flown to Primary Children’s Hospital.
Lone Peak Fire Department responded to the call and said the 16-year-old left the reservoir in stable condition.
He was sledding without a helmet.
A spokeswoman with Intermountain Healthcare said they saw double the amount of patients in the emergency room for sledding-related injuries in 2021 compared to 2020.
She also said the long-term trend shows more injuries, and she encourages people to take a helmet with them because it can make a huge difference.