Castlegar accident survivor runs to say thank you

Jeanette Makortoff is on a mission to say thank you to the first responders, health care providers and facilities that saved her life 10 years ago. Photo: Betsy Kline
Jeanette Makortoff is raising money to show her appreciation for the people who saved her life. Photo: Betsy KlineJeanette Makortoff is raising money to show her appreciation for the people who saved her life. Photo: Betsy Kline
Jeannette Makortoff’s car after the accident. Photo: SubmittedJeannette Makortoff’s car after the accident. Photo: Submitted
Jeanette Makortoff in the hospital after her accident. Photo: SubmittedJeanette Makortoff in the hospital after her accident. Photo: Submitted
Jeanette Makortoff when she was still in a wheelchair. Photo: SubmittedJeanette Makortoff when she was still in a wheelchair. Photo: Submitted

It’s been 10 years since first responders pulled Jeanette Makortoff out of a vehicle so crushed that onlookers questioned how she could possibly survive. Now she is trying to give back to the people who saved her life.

On a cold winter afternoon Makortoff left her job at the South Slocan Kootenay Savings and headed home to Castlegar. Halfway home, a larger vehicle crossed the centre line and hit Makortoff head on.

Makortoff doesn’t remember a lot about that day, but she has been able to piece together what happened from some coworkers who were following her in their own vehicles and from the teams that rescued and cared for her.

After her car came to rest over the shoulder of the road, Makortoff was trapped with parts of the engine compartment basically on her lap. As she came in and out of consciousness firefighters from the Tarrys, Beasley and Pass Creek fire departments responded to the scene and used the Jaws of Life of to get her out.

“I’m told it was quite severe and stressful to get me out of there,” said Makortoff.

Her injuries included breaks in her legs, ribs, back, neck and arm plus a compound fracture of the foot and a punctured lung.

After arriving at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH), Makortoff underwent surgeries to repair the damage inflicted by the crushing force of the accident. She spent a week in ICU followed by about three more weeks in hospital.

“It’s been a long, long recovery since then,” said Makortoff.

To celebrate her recovery and 10-year anniversary, Makortoff ran for 10 hours on June 5. She started her run at 6 a.m. and then ran for 30 minutes before resting for 30 minutes and kept that up all through the day. She used the occasion to collect donations for the three medical facilities that played key roles in her recovery and life — KBRH, Kootenay Lake Hospital and Castlegar Community Health Centre.

“I’m doing this to celebrate recovery and thank everybody that helped me along the way and to give thanks to our three health centres and the amazing people that work there,” said Makortoff. “I don’t know where I would be without them — everyone from the surgeons to the housekeeping staff.”

Makortoff had taken up running before her accident, but afterward it took five years before she could walk a 10-kilometre event. Her passion has since continued to grow and her endurance has progressed.

“When you can’t run, or you can’t do things, when you are stuck in a wheelchair — then that, of course, is when you really want to,” she said.

Now, at 46 years old, Makortoff has run five- and 10-km events and an ultra-marathon, running up and down Idaho Peak for Sufferfest.

“I feel alive and just happy to be doing this,” she says.

On top of the health professionals, Makortoff says she couldn’t have made it through the ordeal without the support of her coworkers, friends, family and the community at large.

“I am almost thankful in a way that I had this accident because I have met so many people and have been able to connect with people in so many different ways that I would not have otherwise,” she says. “There has been so much love and support over these 10 years. It still blows me away.”

So far Makortoff has raised over $5,000. If you would like to donate, e-transfers can be sent to jeanettemakortoff@gmail.com or you can contact her through Facebook.

READ MORE: VIDEO: Quick thinking averts bigger disaster after parked vehicle bursts into flames in downtown Castlegar



betsy.kline@castlegarnews.com

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