Moorcroft’s Hutchison on the mend   |

Moorcroft’s Hutchison on the mend  

The Hutchison family are avid ropers, spending lots of time in the arena together. (L to R) Carter, Kayla, Kaeley, and Cody. Kaeley plans to recover fully in time for her high school rodeo season.  

Brother and sister are just 15 months apart, and Carter was Kaeley’s “lifeline” while in the hospital, keeping her spirits up. Her 16th birthday was not as she expected, but she will make a full recovery.  

“People don’t make it out of what that truck looked like,” says Kayla Hutchison, whose daughter, Kaeley, survived a horrific road accident while on her way to Moorcroft High School on March 9. Kaeley suffered a severe concussion, soft tissue injuries, one bulged disc, and a large gash on her forehead, but was otherwise uninjured. When considering that her pickup rolled at least once off of an embankment, it is miraculous. The Hutchison family, who are lifelong rodeo competitors, immediately felt the support of the Gillette and Moorcroft communities, especially the ranching and rodeo communities.  

While driving to school that morning, Kaeley, 16, hit a patch of black ice on I-90 and lost control of her pickup. Though her memory is intermittent and there were no witnesses to the accident, inspection of her vehicle’s tracks revealed that her pickup probably turned 180º on the interstate, then rolled one to three times before landing in a pasture below. Her brother, Carter, who normally rides with her to school, was fortunately not with her that day. “She’s actually a really cautious driver,” says her mother. Kaeley’s schoolmate and fellow rodeo competitor, Korlyn Slattery, drove up on the accident, calling 911 before calling Kaeley’s mother, who was already at the Moorcroft Elementary where she works. Kayla was not panicked at first, hearing Kaeley’s voice over the telephone, but upon seeing the wreckage, she was overwhelmed with emotion. “I just took a deep breath and knew that I could not be panicked or scared in front of her. I was so thankful that she was conscious,” she says.  

Kaeley Hutchison loves breakaway roping, and placed fifth in the nation at last year’s National High School Finals Rodeo.  

Still, she knew that even though Kaeley did not present any obvious external injuries – she could wiggle her toes and squeeze her mom’s hand – there was a real possibility of internal injuries. Those present at the scene were not able to open any doors to get Kaeley out, and did not want to risk aggravating any spinal cord injuries, so they talked to her through the window and passed blankets through to keep her warm. Kayla is appreciative of fellow rodeo mom and coworker, Joy Sheehan, for coming to the scene for support. They then spent a frustrating and cold hour waiting for the ambulance to arrive from Gillette. Upon loading her in the ambulance, medical personnel cut off her clothes to begin checking internally. Her eyes were, and still are, filled with blood, which the doctors said is often an indication of a skull fracture. However, her scans all came back clear.  

Hutchison lost control of her pickup on a patch of black ice while traveling to school on March 9. Miraculously, she remained conscious and sustained minimal injuries.  

Kaeley’s 16th birthday ten days later was spent at home recovering, fighting off bouts of sadness at having to miss her hair appointment and a trip to Arizona to celebrate. Yet, her mother encouraged her by reminding her what a blessing it is to get to do her favorite things again. This helped her endure the pain and stillness. Carter, her brother and best friend, was her “lifeline” in the hospital, according to their mom.  

The Gillette College Rodeo, Mar. 17-19, hosted several fundraisers for Kaeley’s benefit, one of which was the annual breakaway and muley jackpot. Normally, Kayla serves as the secretary and timer, while both of her kids compete. The ropers and hosts felt Kaeley’s absence this year, and Will LaDuke donated all of the stock charges to her. Additionally, 10 athletes from the Gillette College Rodeo Team donated their winnings to Kaeley. “They’re just young college kids. For them to do that was so impressive,” Kayla said tearfully. The Cowboy Country Horse Sale, held in conjunction with the college rodeo, raffled off a rifle for her benefit, courtesy of Matt and Anna Burch, Justin and Abby Kissack, and Clarke and Vicki Kissack.  

“We were overwhelmed with gratitude. You always know how amazing the rodeo world is, but until you’ve experienced to that extent, man, it’s humbling.” Kaeley received a care package from her South Dakota High School Rodeo friends, and has continually received calls and texts. “For a teenager, the world can be tough. To know so many people cared so much meant everything,” says Kayla. “It means a lot to me, I was very grateful for all the support,” Kaeley says.  

Hutchison is determined to recover in time for high school rodeos, the first of which is on April 15. With careful monitoring by her neurologist, she seems to be on track to do so. Just two weeks after her accident, her doctors are allowing her to begin doing schoolwork, roping the dummy, and riding lightly a little bit at a time. “ If I feel like I’m getting a headache, I just go home and restart,” says Kaeley. With limited screen time, she has started to read a sports psychology book called With Winning in Mind, a testament to her dedication to get back to the arena.  

Hutchison was trapped in her pickup until emergency services could travel there from Gillette. While she remained in the vehicle, her mother and friends were there for support, passing her blankets to keep warm.