ABQ woman makes remarkable recovery following hiking accident

Posted at: 08/06/2014 6:08 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

An Albuquerque woman has made a remarkable recovery one year after a falling boulder struck her while she was hiking in the Sandia Mountains.

Speech therapists played a major role in Judy Ludwig-Keller's recovery from a traumatic brain injury, which fits properly since she is a longtime speech and language pathologist with Albuquerque Public Schools.

Judy's recovery has exceeded just about every expectation, and now, she wants to deliver a message of thanks and hope.

She was a devout and devoted hiker before the freak accident in April 2013. The boulder nearly killed her, but left her in a coma for a week. When she came out of it, it wasn't much better.

"Out of the world, it felt like," Judy said during an interview in her Four Hills home, with her husband, Dean, at her side. "I wasn't part of the world. I wasn't part of myself. I felt totally isolated and so scared about what that meant. Who would I be? How could that happen?"

Her memory, speech and hearing were almost gone. Dean sent her to Craig Hospital in Denver, where she could get the best intensive support for a long recovery, but she knows the care she got here in Albuquerque, from fire department paramedics and UNM Hospital set the stage for that recovery.

"I'm full of thankfulness for the doctors at the trauma center and to the first responders for saving my life," she said, enunciating each word carefully and precisely. "I don't think they get enough thanks."

Judy is doing so well she gave a commencement address to speech pathology graduates at the University of Colorado. Therapists from that school helped with her recovery. She told us her ordeal taught her a valuable lesson.

"It appears that there will never be life again, and I mean real life. But I want people to know that it's possible. There are a lot of possibilities, more than we could ever imagine," she said.

Judy Ludwig-Keller is feeling so well now she's thinking about going back to work. She's been a speech pathologist at Roosevelt Middle School and Sandia High School for 24 years – helping thousands of kids get over difficulties.