INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Faith played a major role as Andrea Vellinga fought to survive. But her journey is far from over.
The Pendleton wife and mother was gravely injured in the stage collapse Aug. 13 at the Indiana State Fair. She spent the last two months taking physical, occupational and speech therapy at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indianapolis.
Prior to that, she received treatment at St. Vincent Seton Specialty Hospital.
Therapy sessions at RHI are three hours each day, five days a week.
But now, Andrea has gone as far as she can at RHI. She will have to spend the next three to six months at a facility in Michigan.
It's not her body or doctors standing in the way. Despite being one of the largest metropolitan cities - and a hub for health care - Indiana doesn't have the advanced facilities to keep Andrea or other traumatic brain injury patients in the state for longterm intensive therapy.
Lawmakers are working to change that.
"There are three things that have to come together in the state of Indiana, and we are working diligently on that now," Sen. Patricia Miller said. "One is the funding stream."
Miller is leading the fight. She introduced a bill last year that would have paved the way for traumatic brain injury rehabilitative services in Indiana. These programs provide intensive therapy and help patients transition to settings of greater independence.
State lawmakers rejected Miller's bill last year.
Coupled with funding, Miller said Congress must approve a licensing category and providers willing to provide the costly care.
"I've talked to individuals that are interested in developing traumatic brain injury services," said Miller, also a registered nurse. "If we can bring all of those things together this year, then next year we can move forward."
Similar legislation will be back on the table in January.
Those backing Miller, including Dr. Lance Trexler, said there can be setbacks when patients leave the state.
"I think it is detrimental to their recovery process," Trexler said, noting about 60 to 80 traumatic brain injury patients are sent out of state for continued care each year.
Trexler chairs the Brain Injury Association of Indiana and had lobbied in Washington for adequate brain injury services here. He said studies show if patients don't get all the care they need, there are consequences.
"The rates of depression are about 60 to 70 percent within one year after injury," he said. "The rate of divorce goes up to as high as 85 percent."
UPDATE 10:45 P.M.: Many Indiana State Police dispatches were reporting accidents on major roads due to slick weather conditions Sunday night.
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