An 18-year-old Coeur d’Alene High School graduate is fighting for his life in a Missoula hospital after his car flipped on Lolo Pass on the Montana-Idaho border two weeks ago.
Brenden Nichols, salutatorian of the 2011 class, Eagle Scout, church youth leader, track team member and accomplished photographer, has been in a coma since the Oct. 15 accident. His neck also was broken and a lung collapsed, said his mother, Jodie Nichols. The family is researching moving him to a neurological rehabilitation center closer to home, she said.
“As a parent, it’s just so frustrating because it’s just a very big waiting game,” said his mother, who is staying near the hospital with her husband, Ken. The couple’s younger son, Morgan, is staying at their Hayden home with a family friend but travels regularly to see his brother. “There is every indication he will wake up but we just don’t know if that’s weeks, months, or years. It’s just up to God at this point and prayers are very much welcomed.”
The community has rallied around the family with fundraisers, by organizing an account at Wells Fargo bank branches to help cover costs not covered by insurance, and by keeping each other posted through online message boards.
On this final Green Bluff Apple Festival weekend, 50 percent of the profits Sunday from Diversified Social Services’ Backyard Events pony rides at Green Bluff Grange will be donated to the “Brenden’s Angels” fund at Wells Fargo. On Friday night, JAMMS Yogurt on Government Way in Coeur d’Alene will donate 25 percent of proceeds to the fund.
Nichols was a freshman at Carroll College in Montana with a goal of becoming a neurosurgeon. He was heading to meet his father and brother for a hunting trip in Kooskia, Idaho, when his car overturned and tumbled down an embankment around 2 a.m. The family does not know what caused the accident, but speculation includes weather conditions, swerving to miss an animal or perhaps falling asleep.
A trucker and his wife found the young man and called for help. However, by the time emergency services were able to extricate Brenden and bring him to the hospital, six hours had passed. There is no cell service in that area.
Since then, the family has regularly posted updates on Brenden’s condition at caringbridge.org/visit/brendennichols. CaringBridge provides free websites to connect people in times of serious health problems. A Facebook page, Brenden’s Angels, also has been a gathering point.
“He is always so full of happiness and smiles,” said Kristina Nicholas Anderson, who runs Diversified Social Services, the organization offering the Green Bluff fundraiser on Sunday. Anderson’s daughter attended CHS with Brenden. “He’s fallen on a hard time and it was just really a blessing to be able to help in any way we can. We hope the community responds accordingly.”