Highland Park Shooting Survivors Thank Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital Staff
Brothers Stephen and Nicholas Kolpack attended the 4th of July parade in Highland Park because it was one of Stephen’s wife’s favorite childhood memories. They looked forward to continuing the tradition with their two young children, one-year-old Wyatt and Parker, age 2.
During a small break in the parade, they heard the popping noises. Like many others, it took a moment to realize it wasn’t part of the parade. It also took several seconds to realize they were wounded.
Stephen Kolpack, 32, an insurance adjuster living in Chicago, said, “I heard the loud popping of the bullets, and then I felt something—I looked down and there was blood gushing from my leg and I knew I was shot.”
Stephen’s wife Zoe collapsed with a shattered femur, and was immediately taken to a nearby hospital.
People immediately jumped in to help Stephen and put a makeshift tourniquet on his leg until the EMTs could tend to him, as a bullet had gone through his left calf and scraped his right shin. Emergency responders treated Stephen at the scene before he was taken via ambulance to Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital. His only thoughts were of his wife, whose condition was still unknown.
Nicholas, age 30, was also taken to Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital. After numerous X-rays and scans, he was diagnosed with a minor fracture in the knee and required surgery to remove bullet fragments. He was lucky that the major ligaments and tendons were spared, and the blood flow was normal. The vascular team was also present to ensure no other major arteries were impacted in his foot. Two days later, Nicholas was discharged. He is currently in physical therapy, and has started to go back to work part-time, but for now is limited to office work.
While at Lake Forest Hospital, Stephen said, “Everyone working there was so nice and helpful, and I’m grateful for the exceptional care I received.” He still has swelling, has numbness in his foot and leg and is in physical therapy.
The brothers and their family were looking forward to the opportunity to thank the Lake Forest Hospital staff for the care they received. This was also a unique opportunity for the hospital staff to spend some time with their former patients in a less stressful environment.
“It was a really powerful experience,” said Timothy Loftus, MD, medical director of emergency services at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital. “We had a chance to meet, catch up and share, and despite the indescribable tragedy that we experienced as a community, moments like this allow for the collective and communal recovery.”
Post-surgery, the brothers were able to share a hospital room, which helped their visiting family members tend to them as they didn’t have to go back and forth from separate rooms.
“To have the brothers ask to share a room was a breath of fresh air for our team who was caring for them,” said Karen Mahnke, MSN, RN, Bernthal Family Chief Nurse Executive at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital. “We were able to find out how Stephen’s wife was doing after she was taken to another hospital, and we really became attached to the whole family just from how close they were and how they responded to the care we were providing to them.”
Today, for Stephen, it’s still a challenge dealing with the injuries while caring for his two young kids—he has lots of people to take care of despite his injuries—but is lucky he has a full support system behind him, and is thankful that his injuries were not more severe.
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