St. Mary’s nurse returns to work after hiking accident

ROCHESTER, Minn. – It’s an incredible story of survival that we first brought you in May when a St. Mary’s nurse fell 100 feet while hiking in Arizona.

Amber Kohnhorst spent 24 hours in extreme pain, without food or water until she was rescued by helicopter.

Now, the 25-year-old is back in Rochester, and it’s been quite some time since she was working as a registered nurse on the fifth floor at St. Mary’s Hospital.

“My last shift was Friday, May 13,” she tells us. “I’ve never really believed in Friday the Thirteenth, but now it kind of freaks me out.”

A week later on May 20 while on vacation in Arizona, Amber’s life would change forever when a short hike turned into a nightmare. Following the accident, she spent 10 weeks on bed rest. Although today she looks to be back to normal, her body is still recovering from her extensive injuries. A CT scan taken a week ago shows her pelvis is still fractured.

“They anticipated about eight to nine months for my bones to heal and then a two-year recovery, and this is just going on a little over six months, so I still have a long recovery,” Amber explains.

Since she still has physical restrictions, including a 20 pound weight limit, Amber is not back to seeing patients and it’s unclear when she will be. In the meantime, she’s slowly getting re-acclimated at the hospital.

“It’s my first week back, so I’ve just been working on the computer and saying hello to everyone.”

Ultimately, her goal is to get back to working with patients with a brand new perspective having been one herself for so many months.

“It’s hard to be a patient,  it’s completely different,” she says. “I was really protective of my patients before and now, I’m even more protective because I can relate to it. You can always tell somebody, ‘Oh, I understand where you’re coming from,’ but you don’t always understand — you try your best but being on the other side of it, you have more of an understanding because it’s rough.”

Even though she has gone through highs and lows during her recovery and still wakes up each morning in pain, Amber is just grateful that she gets to wake up each morning.

“There was a time when I thought I wasn’t going to wake up. I’m very fortunate.”

Amber says she’s also grateful for all the of the support she has received in Rochester and in her hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin. She adds that Mayo has been making the transition back as smooth as possible.

“Mayo Clinic has been absolutely amazing making sure that I have the time needed and giving me options to do besides patient care.”

She tells us she will need one more surgery within the next year to remove some titanium implants.


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