Try 1 month for 99¢

Lynn Smith doesn't recall much from the evening of Dec. 2, 2015, but he knows he shut his car door on the way to deliver a pizza.

"I was finishing up 10 years of delivering pizzas for Pizza Hut," said the 82-year-old Billings resident. "I stepped out of my car, and that's the last thing I remember. I don't remember anything from when I shut my door to when I woke up at the hospital."

Almost four months to the day later, Smith is getting ready to finally go home after a long recovery that included a bout with pneumonia, months of physical rehabilitation and the amputation of his right leg above the knee.

He woke up a few days after the incident at St. Vincent Healthcare to learn that he'd been struck by at least one vehicle. He'd parked his car on the 2200 block of Monad Road to make a delivery and had just gotten out of his car when a vehicle struck him.

Initial Billings police reports say a car hit Smith as he crossed the street, but Smith said that he was walking alongside his car. He and doctors believe that a vehicle hit him, damaging his legs in the process, and knocked him into the air and onto another vehicle, which hurt his face, head and arms.

The incident initially landed him in St. Vincent's intensive care unit in critical condition and battered, with the lower portion of his right leg broken in four places, a shattered right knee, a dislocated shoulder and three broken ribs and a cracked collarbone, along with numerous cuts, scrapes and bruises.

And he spent part of his recovery sick.

"The most difficult part was the first couple of months, I had pneumonia and I was somewhat out of it," Smith said.

As he recovered, he and medical staff at the hospital began to take stock of his injuries and work on a rehabilitation plan.

The severity of his right leg injuries also worried doctors at St. Vincent, and on Feb. 18, they amputated it above the knee. 

"We decided the leg was so badly damaged, it would've taken too many surgeries," he said.

Since then, Smith has spent his days working to recover to the point where he can go home to his wife, children and grandchildren.

In late February, he went to an off-site, long-term, acute-care facility in Billings for extra care before returning to St. Vincent on March 17 to finish inpatient rehab at the New Hope Rehabilitation Center.

Physical therapist Sarah Buening said Smith has made good progress and could be released by the end of the week.

"He's had such a long battle since December," she said. "He said he wants to do what he can to go home. That focuses my treatment."

For Smith, that means working on adjusting to relying on his left leg and knee, how to transfer to different surfaces on it, mobility and overall strengthening, with an eventual plan to fit him with a prosthetic leg.

An arthritic left knee has hindered that progress a bit and led Buening to make sure they weren't overworking it, but Smith says he's happy with where he's at.

"I lost my good knee, so I had to spend some time building up my weaker one," he said.

Once released, he'll continue with outpatient rehab and, maybe in a month or two, will get the prosthetic.

In preparation, Buening visited Smith's home to help identify any challenges he might encounter and noted that he's likely to find more that she didn't spot.

"He's going to go home and find new challenges when he gets there," she said.

The Billings Police Department continues to investigate the incident that landed Smith in the hospital, and no charges have been filed or citations issued.

Buening described Smith as a self-motivated patient who wanted to do whatever he could to go home.

Smith noted he's been looking forward to doing just that since he began his recovery, especially since it wasn't certain he'd get the chance.

"It's the thing I'm looking forward to the most," he said. "Everybody says I'm a miracle. When I went into the ER, they weren't even sure if I'd make it." 

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.