COLSTRIP — It’s a worry most parents know all too well, that unsettling feeling every time your teen gets behind the wheel.
On Oct. 7, 2022, that feeling grabbed Colstrip mother Cami Rogers by the gut.
“I’ve actually been through a lot with this kid,” said Cami.
Cami laughs a little then looks tenderly at her 17-year-old daughter, Talen.
“She’s kind of my accident-prone child, so yeah, she keeps me on my toes,” she said.
It was homecoming weekend in Colstrip, and Talen had just gotten off the parade with her friends. They were all looking forward to their night.
That evening, they decided to cruise Mine Road, where Colstrip teens often drive.
“Everyone in Colstrip cruises Mine Road, turn around at the dirt road and head home,” said Talen.
But that’s not exactly how the evening turned out.
“One thing I will say is, you don’t forget a sound,” said Talen.
The sound she won't forget was the impact of a collision with another vehicle. But it wasn’t just another car, it was a Rosebud County ambulance.
Talen said the ambulance was likely heading to another emergency, but she never heard the sirens coming from behind. At one point the two vehicles even got stuck together at the wheels, but the ambulance shimmied away from hers and took off down the road.
“I stopped, my friend at that moment had noticed my leg and she told me to look down and that’s when I noticed,” said Talen.
Talen was overcome with confusion having just been through a hit and run, but when she did look down she saw her left leg skewered from a long piece of silver metal.
“Maybe my mind just had blocked it from me, but I didn’t know it had been in my leg,” she said.
When the ambulance didn’t stop, Talen’s friend called for another and on the other line was Talen’s mom, Cami.
Cami has been a dispatcher for Rosebud County for nine years.
As it turns out Cami was working that night when Talen's friend hurriedly called 911.
“You could hear me saying mom in the background because I knew it was her. I knew she was working,” said Talen.
Cami was asked during a recent interview if she had ever taken a call involving a family member.
“No, no this was my first,” said Cami.
So she did what any seasoned dispatcher would do: She got medical, fire and police out to her daughter’s location.
“Just getting the help out there was my priority,” said Cami. “So mom didn’t really enter into it until after.”
Cami said she was reassured talking to her daughter because she knew that even though she’d just been in a car crash, she was breathing, conscious, and talking.
“She had said there was a piece of metal in her leg and everything, but I had no idea that it was the size of metal,” said Cami.
The metal shot through the back tire well of Talen’s car, went past the metal A pillar between her front and back doors on the driver’s side, and shot through her leg.
Cami called the same ambulance that struck her daughter’s car back to the scene to provide medical aid.
“You see the people that are supposed to help you, driving away from you,” said Talen.
It turns out the metal came detached from the exterior of the ambulance when the two vehicles struck.
It took crews hours to get Talen extricated from the vehicle, even loading her up into Help Flight with the metal still in her leg.
She was flown to St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings, where surgeons removed the metal, but a complication followed the surgery.
In the days following, the family says Talen’s surgeons mistakenly left her jean pocket and two hair ties still inside her leg after three surgeries, which resulted in an infection.
“I was very, very hot and upset and just said something has got to be done otherwise she is going to lose this leg,” said Cami. “When someone is impaled and in clothing and everything, why wouldn’t that be your first thought to check and make sure?”
Hospital leadership responded by saying in an email...
"St. Vincent Healthcare takes patient care concerns very seriously. We follow all state and federal patient privacy policies and fully comply with HIPAA regulations, and therefore are unable to comment."
Throughout the course of the rest of the winter, Talen worked to heal. But wearing heavy on her mind in addition to her traumatic injury was track.
“Obviously one of my first thoughts was track,” said Talen.
As an already decorated high school athlete in the prime of her high school shot put career, Talen was now staring at the unknown.
“I’ve definitely had some frustration along the way. I didn’t get the season I expected,” said Talen.
Now, the family is now heading for a legal battle, alleging the driver of the Rosebud County ambulance was going too fast, not using its siren and the driver was negligent.
“I completely feel like he was negligent. I don’t feel like any of it should have happened,” said Talen.
John Heenan, an attorney for the Rogers family, said Rosebud County has been notified of an impending lawsuit, but that it has not yet been filed in court.
MTN News reached out to Rosebud County Director of Emergency Services Keith Raymond who provided a statement by email: “Unfortunately, at this time Rosebud County is unable to comment as there is an ongoing investigation.”
Talen spent most of last year simply learning how to stand again, let alone compete in track events.
“So everything I had known, I had to completely change and critique into my own form,” said Talen.
Talen has the hardware to attest to her shot-put skill, with dozens of medals and ribbons she’s won as a high school athlete.
But she was looking for more, when track practice picked back up in the spring of 2023 for her junior year.
“I didn’t get the season I expected,” she said. “I was mad that this even had to happen in the first place.”
She had expected to go her season undefeated. Instead, she could barely walk, had to relearn to stand, and had to have her mom help her shower.
The road to recovery was long and daunting, but Talen found inspiration in her coach and herself.
“She fought through something in life that no one is going to have to deal with,” said John Deming, Talen’s track coach. “She’s going to be more resilient.”
At the cap of the season, Talen found herself standing top of the Class B podium at state, tossing out every doubt she had that year about her ability, and putting the crash into the rear-view mirror.
“It felt pretty good,” she said. “It taught me to appreciate it more, to appreciate my talent to appreciate that I could have lost that,” she said.
The incident remains under investigation by Rosebud County. Kristine White, the county's attorney, said charges may be forthcoming but she declined to further comment.