By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4) – Birgit Mueller, a physical therapist who is used to helping others rebound from their injuries, had the tables turned. A freak accident crushed her face and left her struggling to even walk again.

Her story is hard to believe. Her recovery is remarkable.

(credit: CBS)

These days, Mueller is more dedicated than ever to helping injured patients at Denver Health rebuild their lives, because Mueller has been there.

“I have no memories, whatsoever, of the accident,” Mueller told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

(credit: Birgit Mueller)

It was June 12, 2017. Mueller and her boyfriend, Dave Shinneman, were camping at an isolated resort called Valley View Hot Springs, about an hour from Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

They were together in a hammock attached to trees.

“I heard the crack,” said Shinneman, now Mueller’s fiancé.

“All of a sudden, the tree fell,” said Mueller.

“Her face was crushed. It was flattened,” Shinneman explained.

“I broke all the bones in my face,” said Mueller.

(credit: CBS)

Mueller was flown to a hospital in Pueblo. Shinneman, who wasn’t hurt, was told she had bleeding in the brain.

“If she did make it, that she wouldn’t be the same,” said Shinneman.

(credit: Birgit Mueller)

Because of the severity of her injuries, another helicopter rushed Mueller to Denver Health. Days later Dr. Scott Mann, an ENT Surgeon, was able to put her broken face back together with 50 screws, 10 plates and barely a scar.

“I look awesome. I just look like the way I looked before,” said a smiling Mueller. “I actually got a face lift in the surgery,” she laughed.

Mueller has had seven surgeries. She has learned to walk again and was running, skiing and back at work in under a year.

Birgit Mueller (credit: CBS)

“It’s a miracle, and it’s a result of her drive and her determination to come back,” said Shinneman.

On June 12, 2018, Mueller returned to the campsite and sat on the downed tree.

“It was a challenging time, an incredible good outcome and I’m very grateful,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Mueller is excited to marry Shinneman in June. She is ready to embrace the future.

Kathy Walsh


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