Jurine Biers doesn’t remember the exact moment on Aug. 3 when her friend Gary Monnich saved her life. But she’ll never forget that Monnich – in a rush of quick thinking and quicker action – is the one who pulled her away from the out-of-control car that jumped the sidewalk in front of the Sonoma Post Office.
Biers, 73, usually stops by the post office once a day at around 2:30 p.m. to check her P.O. box. On her way out, she spotted Monnich, 74. She stepped onto the walk in front of the post office and they began chatting.
“I heard a terrible loud revving of an engine in overdrive and I just grabbed her,” said Monnich, who fell to the ground with Biers as a black Infinity sedan crashed into the wall where they had been standing.
“He saved my life for sure,” said Biers.
“We were almost under the guy’s car,” said Monnich. “Her lower leg was crushed between his car and the front corner of the post office. He was going fast and the car was totally airborne when he hit Jurine.”
Biers was alert but unaware that she was bleeding out from a severed femoral artery just below her knee. A bystander called 911 and Monnich applied hard pressure for 14 minutes until help arrived.
The ambulance transported Biers first to Queen of the Valley Trauma Center and then that night to UC Davis Medical Center.
Her tibia was broken in four places, her ankle was shattered and her lower leg had a gaping open wound.
Biers was outfitted with what she describes as “fantastic” pain medication and, in her first surgery, the doctors placed two pins inside her ankle and two outside – as well as a rod on the outside to hold the pieces of her ankle together in the hopes of preventing permanent tissue trauma.
Biers’ orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Ellen Fitzpatrick, specializes in trauma fractures. She stopped by to see Biers prior to the surgery. They got to chatting and, as luck would have it, Biers, president of the Sonoma Valley High alumni association, was about to be operated on by another SVHS grad, class of 2000.
“And she did a beautiful job,” said Biers.
Reached by phone twice this week, Biers was cheerful and cracking jokes, despite a grueling schedule of surgeries every two days to attempt to clean and debride the tissue.
“They want to try to keep the skin viable but the skin around the open wound is somewhat necrotic,” she said. “If the tissue stay healthy, I may heal enough to keep my foot and someday walk using a boot and a cane or a walker. But if, at any time now or in the future, the site gets infected, they will amputate.”
For weeks, the doctors have been picking small pieces of the post office wall out of Biers’ leg.
“It could have been so much worse,” she said with her trademark positive attitude. She has feeling in her foot, which is somewhat miraculous, she says. Also unscathed is her recently applied self-pedicure, a fact that has made her smile through some very tough times these past two weeks. “I did my toes the morning of the accident and it turns out if you lay in a hospital bed for weeks, your pedicure stays perfect,” she laughed.
Meet the (Dragon) doctor
Jerry Biers was operated on immediately after her accident by a surgeon at UC Davis, by a leading orthopedic trauma specialist, Dr. Ellen Fitzpatrick, who coincidentally also graduated from Sonoma Valley High School, and attended Flowery Elementary School and Altimira Middle School. She’s the sixth of seven children of Bernard and Patricia Fitzpatrick, who still live in Sonoma, as do some of her siblings.
Fitzpatrick played varsity volleyball, basketball and track at SVHS, and was selected as the Press Democrat’s Athlete of the Year for SVHS in 2000 and earned NCS scholar-athlete honors.
Fitzpatrick received her undergraduate degree from UC Davis, where she played Div. 1 volleyball. She received her medical degree from UC San Diego. She trained at Harvard Orthopedics Surgery, Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh and she was named chief resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She currently lives in Sacramento.
“I get back to Sonoma whenever I can,” she said. “I very much enjoyed my time training on the East Coast, but I was fortunate to find a job that matched my academic interests and was closer to home.”