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Mother returns home to Wyoming from Billings after December rollover crash

By Kelsey Merison,


It's been just over a month since a rollover crash in the Billings Heights put members of a Sheridan, Wyo. family in the hospital.

The Layher family was in town for a sleep study for their son and were out celebrating his 12th birthday at Pizza Ranch. But when they left the family-fun restaurant, their lives were forever changed.

Jessica Layher, the mother of the family, was driving the family's SUV when they were struck by a BMW that witnesses say was traveling at high speeds. While the entire family was impacted by the crash, Jessica had the worst of the injuries, ranging from broken bones to internal bleeding. She was hospitalized at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings following the crash and just recently was released.

“It’s been rough. My wife was able to come home a little over a week ago," Kurt Layher, the father of the family, said on Tuesday. "It’s hard with two parents that are gimping around. My 15-year-old daughter has been stepping up to do what it takes to get things done, and we’re recovering. There’s a little bit of pain, but for the most part, we’re recovering."

But while Jessica recovered in the hospital in Billings, Kurt and his two children traveled back down to Sheridan so they could get back into a more normal routine.

“It was tough. I felt like I abandoned her up there," Layher said. "I mean we made the smart choice because one of us had to be here with the kids. Getting them back into their routines as quickly as possible was certainly something that we wanted to do."

Jessica was taken to St. Vincent after the crash, while Kurt and his children went to Billings Clinic. It was four days before Kurt could see his wife—and if their son's 12th birthday being ruined by the crash during the holiday season wasn't tough enough, another important date made the situation even harder.

"Because I couldn’t move, I was not able to see her until right before my surgery Friday morning. They wheeled me up to her room first so I could at least hold her hand," Layher said. "It was just ironic. It turned out that was our anniversary. So I did get to hold her hand on our anniversary. You know I couldn’t stand, couldn’t do anything. But at least I got to hold her hand on our wedding anniversary. That was kind of awesome, to be able to do that, even if it was just for a few minutes before I had surgery on my foot."

Kurt explained he was taken to Billings Clinic where he was seen in the emergency room. He stayed in the ER for what he believes to be six to eight hours before he was discharged and came back on Friday for his foot surgery.

"It was two or three in the morning when they discharged me,” Layher explained. “I could not sit up on my own. I needed two people to help me just sit up."

After his surgery, he returned home to Sheridan with his children. But the road to recovery was only just beginning.

“The new semester started at school, and there was an emergency response course. Their first day, it was videos of car accidents, so (my daughter) dropped it. She didn’t want to be in there, she was like, it’s too soon,” Layher said. “Everybody’s going to deal with it in a different way."

Kurt explained the time away from his wife was not easy, but he is grateful to finally have her home after her month-long hospital stay—although new challenges are arising.

“It’s so nice to have her home. Where she belongs. Where we can be together,” Layher said. “But she needs help with these things that I can’t do because I’m not even weight-bearing yet. I can’t walk.”

Although the Layhers are home, that doesn't mean they are completely healed, Kurt explained. He still uses a walker to get around and has a boot on his foot, while Jessica is in a wheelchair.

“We’ve had to make some adjustments. For example, we had to take a few doors off the hinges at the house to get the wheelchair through. People have been very helpful in coming over to help us do that,” Layher said. "Just because she’s home doesn’t mean she’s back to normal."

Layher said he is grateful for the support of their community during this challenging time. A GoFundMe has been set up for the family to help pay for extra costs. The Layhers will be out of work for months during their recovery.

“I just appreciate everything that people want to do. If they want to help, they certainly can. I’m never going to turn down help. On the other hand, I just need people to know that sometimes it’s just the thoughts and prayers that matter. It’s those things that make a difference. Sometimes it’s that that helps me get the motivation to stand up and do the things I need to do, and get the things done that I need to get done so I can recover. I can’t imagine not having the support of this community. Those things you can’t put a price on."

And Layher has a positive outlook and attitude toward the situation.

“I could get on here and complain, but it wouldn’t change the events, the effects, or what we have to do to go on," Layher said. “It is what it is. It was an accident. It’s not like anybody was out trying to, ‘Hey let’s see if we can run into people tonight!’ That’s not the way it works."

To donate to the Layhers GoFundMe, click here.

“I’ve got people messaging me all the time, ‘Hey, how you doing, I heard about your accident,’" Layher said. "It’s nice to have that kind of support as well. It doesn’t need to be monetary or anything else. Just the people, knowing that they care has been awesome."

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