New challenges and blessings face SDSU student after accident


A potentially fatal accident leads one student to adopt a better outlook on life.

Web Editor

With finals looming around the corner you might think to yourself, “could this get any more difficult?

Now imagine you are a senior reaching the last few weeks of the fall semester, when you find yourself at Sanford Hospital in Sioux Falls, wondering if you will ever be able to walk again.

That is exactly what happened to Tonna Hartman, a senior wildlife and fisheries science major. Over the Veteran’s Day holiday last fall, Hartman volunteered to recover a radio-tracking caller from a dead raccoon stuck in a tree.

“If you have a group of guys who won’t climb a tree, odds are, you shouldn’t either,” Hartman said.

However, she had participated in frequent free climbing activities over the summer and was confident she could recover the collar.

She climbed the tree.

Hartman fell approximately 13 feet and broke her lower back.

“I have two titanium rods fusing my L2 – L4 vertebrae,” Hartman said.

The surgeon who operated on Hartman had a lot of experience with this type of injury, having had the same surgery himself.

“Dr. [Charles] Miller made me feel like he really cared,” Hartman said.

The accident would be enough reason for many people, not just college students, to develop a negative outlook on life.

Not Hartman. She looks upon this incident as a blessing.

“The initial impact caused me to lose the feelings in my lower body,” said Hartman.

However, she stayed calm through the experience with the support of her grandparents.

“I got closer to my grandma … she had to help me a lot.”