Crash victim starts her long fight back

Last updated 05:00 12/11/2012
Kirsten Steinke and Kenneth Kallan Stithem.
Kirsten Steinke and Kenneth Kallan Stithem.

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A critically injured American newlywed, who survived a Waikato crash that killed her husband, is continuing to improve back in her homeland.

Kirsten Steinke and her husband, Kallan Stithem, were on honeymoon in New Zealand when their car collided with a cement truck as the couple tried to exit Waitomo Caves Rd on to State Highway 3 on September 20.

She spent a month at Waikato Hospital before leaving Hamilton on an international air ambulance flight to her hometown of Denver, Colorado.

Her father James Steinke said his daughter's condition continued to improve and she was requiring much less medical support.

Just the other day she said: "Sometimes it's good to have something like this happen, because you learn you can live through it."

Mr Steinke said his daughter's wit and humour were starting to come through as she interacted with her carers.

"They are always on guard for an unexpected quip or comment that surprises them all.

"She is primarily facing more and more physical and occupational challenges," he said,

"She is strengthening herself with workouts with the PT [physical therapy] team, meeting the trials of getting back into the things we all do in life, and keeping all those doctors and nurses from bothering her all the time."

She was becoming more and more mobile and while her loss of memory of recent events, including the crash, continued, she was beginning to retain more and more new events.

Mr Steinke said his daughter's room was covered in cards and emails from wellwishers in New Zealand, which she "greatly" appreciated. But she could not yet have visitors as such excitement conflicted with her need for rest and relaxation, he said.

"Her mind and body need to heal. The therapists are doing a wonderful job of continuing her rapid progress, but this takes a toll on her stamina."

Mr Steinke thanked those in New Zealand for their continued support.

"It has meant so much to us."

To follow Kirsten's progress, or send her messages, visit

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- Waikato Times

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