One Sunday evening in October forever changed the lives of two families but has also connected them in friendship ever since.
Todd Rauckman was driving his motorcycle on Milburn School Road in O’Fallon when he had an accident and was thrown from the vehicle. Tim and Tina Leadley had been at their church, Skyline, which was nearby.
Instead of turning right to go to the grocery store before heading home, they turned left. And that made all the difference. Looking back, the whole evening was a series of not-the-usual Sunday activities that placed them at the accident scene.
When these Good Samaritans came upon Todd near the intersection with Pausch Road, without hesitation, they pitched in to help. Their medical training — Tina was a U.S. Army field medic and has kept up with her training in First Aid and CPR — and Tim said he just learned CPR at Skyline.
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For their unselfish and heroic acts, Tim and Tina Leadley have recently been honored with numerous awards: The Lifesaving Award by SILEC (Southern Illinois Law Enforcement Commission) and SIPCA (Southern Illinois Police Chiefs Association) in January. They were also recognized by the O’Fallon Police with special Chief’s Commendations Awards.
In his application, Sgt. Eric Buck wrote: “If not for the quick and decisive life-saving actions of Officer Ben Sosa and Mr. and Mrs. Leadley, I do not believe the victim would have survived the accident.”
But the couple eschews the limelight.
“We aren’t heroes. We were where God needed us to be with the skills he needed us to have,” Tina Leadley said. “The true Heroes are the O’Fallon PD and EMS. They face situations such as Todd’s more often than Tim and I.”
“As for Todd, I believe God has a plan and a path he needs to be in, and he isn’t finished with him just yet,” she said.
Todd’s injuries included a Diffuse Axonal Injury, which is a traumatic brain injury that has shearing of white matter from the brain. He also had a fractured left skull, seven broken ribs, broken shoulder and broken collarbone. A severed facial nerve gives an appearance like Bells’ Palsy.
After the awards, Donna Roslin, Todd’s mother who has been back home caring for her son ever since the accident, thanked them for “caring about other people.”
“The world needs more people like you,” she told them.
“Someone had a plan for these two and put them on that path the night of Oct. 7. I will be eternally grateful for their presence and the skills they brought with them,” she said. “Forever my heroes and Todd’s angels.”
Tim Leadley said they did what was needed.
“I don’t need the awards. We just did what we did. At the awards banquet there were so many stories – Hollywood can’t even dream of what these people did for each other. The officers will say ‘just doing my job,’” he said.
“And it’s genuine.”
Roslin said she is impressed at how “personally invested they are in what they do” and their level of professionalism.
Tim’s CPR training at work was still fresh. Tina said many CPR classes are free and people should take advantage of learning life-saving skills. They are an example of putting training to use in an emergency.
Roslin sat down with the Leadleys to share their stories.
Todd, 41, is still recovering, but has been at home since Dec. 7, an apartment in O’Fallon. He attends outpatient therapy sessions three times a week for three to four hours at the Rehab Institute of St. Louis. He has lost 50 lbs. since the accident.
There are small victories to celebrate always.
“His speech therapist thinks he is doing ‘amazing,’” Roslin said.
“The hardest part are the struggles. He is self-conscious. One therapist says, ‘Take a look around you. There are people here who can’t talk. Every time you think about how hard this is, take a look around you,’” she said.
“I know he could be so much worse. He just wants his life back,” she said.
And is working hard to get back to normal.
He is on short-term disability from his job as a mechanic with the trade union, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers, Local 1, having not worked since the accident. His brother, Josh, is in the same union.
Tina works in mutual funds at Stifel Nicolaus in downtown St. Louis and is also the community outreach and domestic mission coordinator at Skyline Church. Tim is a project estimator for a local construction company.
What has been interesting during the months that their friendship has blossomed is how they are connected in different ways, Tina said.
The Leadleys visited him in the hospital and care facilities, and have kept in touch with his progress.
His mom said they are talking to a nerve specialist on how to get tone back to his face. He did attend the banquets and the award ceremony at city hall.
Going back to that fateful night, it’s the little things that the Leadleys remember.
On a typical Sunday night, Tim Leadley attends a Men’s Group meeting at the church, but on Oct. 7, instead of Tina dropping him off, she came inside too.
“I worked at the church on other things, and was piddling around, chit-chatting. Then we left. Instead of going to the grocery store, we decided to head straight home,” Tina said. That meant turning left instead of right.
They saw another car pulled over.
“At first, I thought that someone had hit a deer. That’s when we saw the motorcycle,” she said.
They positioned their car in such a way to alert other vehicles they needed to stop, she said.
“We also cleared the roadway and cleared a straight path for the emergency vehicles,” she said.
Tina joked that she is sometimes described as “bossy,” but “I’m OK with that” in this instance.
“Todd was on an embankment, where there were sticks, tree limbs. We didn’t know what we were getting into,” she said.
“We assessed him. He was conscious but not verbally responsive. We did not move him.”
“At that point, at 8:30 p.m., Todd was still breathing on his own. We started CPR. Tim held Todd’s head still.”
The police arrived before the EMS, and an off-duty firefighter happened by, too – paramedic Matt Wiederholt, who works for Arch Air Medical Services, made the call that a helicopter was needed to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital because it was the difference between 13 minutes in the air vs. 38 minutes by ambulance.
“That was crucial,” Roslin said. “So many people were at the right place at the right time.”
Roslin said Todd’s neurologist calls him “my miracle.”
Roslin said she was worried she wouldn’t be on the receiving end of two miracles, for her husband, Barry, had undergone a lung transplant in 2015.
She credits so many people with helping keep Todd alive – family, friends, co-workers and strangers. But she does think God intervened with the Leadleys.
“Everything we’ve been through brought us to that night,” Tina said.
She quoted Police Chief Eric Van Hook from the city ceremony: “If you don’t think that you aren’t in the right place or not chosen to do something…then you are wrong.”
Roslin can’t say enough good things about The Rehabilitation Institute of St. Louis.
Todd’s prognosis was dire at first. He was in the Saint Louis University Trauma Center ICU for three weeks. He developed a lot of problems, which was not uncommon for his condition. He had two bacterial infections, in his lung and blood, and blood clots in each leg and lungs.
Tina wanted to know how he was. She found out from the O’Fallon PD that he did survive. Then, after initial reticence, she contacted Donna. They easily bonded.
In the aftermath of the accident, it had been chaotic getting everyone notified, but relatives, and even ‘exes’ came to Todd’s side, including his former wife. His father, Steve, who also lives in Florida with his wife Melody, came up right away.
“How it all came together was amazing,” Roslin said.
Todd has no recollection of the accident. Two to three days after the accident, he was supposed to wake up from the medically induced coma. He did not. That’s when doctors found out more had happened to the brain.
He finally opened his eyes 15 days later, on Oct. 22. He was in a long-term acute care facility from Oct. 30 to Nov. 19 that the family had issues with, then transferred him to The Rehab Institute, or TRISL.
Although they had never met, Tina said, Todd’s eyes got big when he heard her speak in the hospital room.
“He remembered me, my voice,” she said.
Because it’s a brain injury, and everyone is different, there is no timetable right now.
“All we can do is wait and watch,” Roslin said.
She and her husband, Barry Roslin, moved to Florida in March 2017, and after the accident, was on a plane back here the next day. She has been at her son’s side ever since.
“People say, ‘oh you’re so strong,’ but I say: I’m just a mom. To me this is what a good mom does,” Roslin said.
She is very grateful she has such a strong support system.
“Everyone knows Todd. It seems everywhere I go, someone knows him,” she said
Friends arranged a benefit, and Donna has set up a GoFundMe account because of not being able to work.
The GoFundMe page Donna set up: https://www.gofundme.com/7xwxv4-team-todd
While life may have its limitations these days , Roslin said she is happy to have seen how much good there is in people.
“So much good stuff happened.”