TROY – Spring has arrived here and the evidence of the changing seasons is obvious looking out Ed Hanson’s window, just a few blocks from the Kootenai River in Troy. The gloom of a long dark winter has been replaced with the vibrant and lush greens of spring. Hanson’s daughter, Tracee Peterson, 38, said she’s ready for the new season and a summer of “camping, fishing and getting out of cell phone range.”
It was just seven months ago, on Sept. 28, 2013, that Hanson found his daughter lying on the floor of her nearby home, bloody, beaten and grasping to life. Hanson knelt down, held Tracee’s hand and prayed that EMTs and police would arrive soon.
When they did, police found Tracee with her mouth filled with blood and extreme swelling in the nose, cheek and eye areas, the result of a vicious attack with a baseball bat that broke every bone in her head. While Tracee was rushed to Kalispell Regional Medical Center, Troy police tracked down the alleged culprit, Tracee’s husband Joshua, who later acknowledged to police that he was the attacker, according to court documents.
In Kalispell, Tracee was put into a medically induced coma for more than two weeks and then transferred to a hospital in Seattle. Hanson said those first few weeks were nerve-racking and it was unclear if Tracee would live.
“For the first two weeks we were just waiting for the call that said ‘that’s it.’ I mean, we were all hoping and physical praying we wouldn’t get that call, but that was the reality on everyone’s mind,” he said. “The doctors told us there wasn’t much hope and that if she did survive, she would be very different.”
Amazingly, Tracee beat the odds and within a few weeks started physical therapy and underwent multiple facial reconstructive surgeries. The doctors said it was an improbable recovery and by mid-November, Tracee returned to Troy just in time to attend a community fundraiser. Hanson said when Tracee walked into the gymnasium, just six weeks after the beating, people nearly collapsed at the sight of her return.
In the weeks following, Tracee began working with physical, occupational and speech therapists and completed therapy about a month ago. Looking at Tracee, it is hard to find any remnants of the attack, but there are still physical injuries. The vision in her right eye is partially impaired and she has lost the ability to hear out of her left ear. She also suffers from memory loss and remembers little about the attack or the weeks following it.
“Sometimes I think I’m going crazy because I can’t remember basic things, but I’m trying to remain positive,” she said. “I was frustrated at first that I couldn’t remember (what had happened), but maybe it’s a good thing.”
Earlier this year, Tracee returned to work at a local coffee shop and moved back into her old house, where she cares for her five children, ages 9 to 17. She is also seeing a therapist weekly to address the mental and emotional scars left behind.
Tracee hopes to help other victims of domestic abuse. Studies show that one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Tracee said her story has already impacted others, who have told her that after hearing her story they went to a safe house.
“I hope some day I could stand in front of a room of women and tell my story and maybe it would help a woman recognize that little red flag they have been ignoring,” she said. “Maybe my story will give another woman the strength to do what I could have done.”
She still has a ways to go in her recovery. However, she said the burdens have lightened by the outpouring of community support. She is grateful for every day she has with her kids – it helps put everything in perspective.
“I like to try and focus on short term goals,” she said. “Like today, it’s sunny and the sky is blue. That’s a good thing.”
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