Kalispell Woman Injured in Snowmobile Accident on Road to Recovery

Ashley Gilbert is up and walking after suffering an internal decapitation

By Justin Franz
Ashley Gilbert was injured in a snowmobile accident over the weekend. Courtesy Photo.

A 27-year-old Kalispell woman injured in a snowmobile accident earlier this month is back on her feet and on her way home to Montana.

Ashley Gilbert was snowmobiling with her boyfriend and friends on Jan. 8 when she crashed near Canyon Creek Road north of Columbia Falls. Gilbert suffered an atlanto-occipital dislocation, an extreme spinal cord injury that is also known as an internal decapitation, among other injuries.

Gilbert’s boyfriend was also on the snowmobile and suffered a concussion, according to Ashley Gilbert’s sister Sarah. Neither person can remember the accident.

After the accident, Ashley was rushed to Kalispell Regional Medical Center before being flown to a hospital in Seattle for an emergency surgery on Jan. 9. Sarah Gilbert said at the time of the surgery, doctors were surprised her sister was alive because only 30 percent of people who suffer an internal decapitation survive.

But just two weeks later, Ashley Gilbert is walking, talking and eating, according to her sister.

“We just can’t believe it,” Sarah Gilbert said. “We’re just blown away by her recovery. I never thought she would make it, but she’s proven everyone wrong.”

Ashley Gilbert under went two surgeries — a major operation to address her spinal cord injury and another to repair her teeth. She was stuck in a bed for the better part of a week and was in a medically induced coma. When they started working with her to stand and sit in a wheelchair, she got up and slowly but surely started walking.

Sarah Gilbert said her sister still has a long recovery ahead of her. She can’t turn her neck and she is having trouble with her vision, but despite that, doctors said it has been an amazing recovery so far. On Jan. 23, she was released from the hospital in Seattle and was being flown to KRMC where she will continue her recovery.

The family has started a GoFundMe page to help cover medical costs. So far, contributors have raised more than $13,000 but much more will be needed. To help, visit www.gofundme.com/ar-ashleys-medical-fund