Helen Miller, a Lake Villa elementary school art teacher, was driving near the intersection of Grand Avenue and Deep Lake Road in Lindenhurst on Oct. 26 when a branch fell 70 feet and crashed through the windshield of her Smart Car.
Helen Miller said she initially thought a train had hit her car as she drove to work the morning of Oct. 26.
But when the noise settled and she looked down, she realized that a tree branch had crashed right through her Smart car and into her abdomen. It entered between her lungs and stomach but missed all major organs.
"I felt major pressure on my chest. I did not have any pain in my stomach even though I saw a tree was going through my stomach... It didn't really hurt," Miller said Tuesday from her Lake Villa home.
She remained conscious all the way to the hospital and now says her entire goal throughout the ordeal was to make sure the paramedics and Samaritans who stopped to help her were OK.
"People say I might have been in shock, but I was just trying to keep the mood light because I didn't want anyone freaking out," the art school teacher said.
Miller last year survived a an aortoesophageal fistula -- a rare but often fatal heart condition that causes upper gastrointestinal bleeding -- and said that taught her to takes things in stride.
"That [medical condition last year], to me, seemed like a lot bigger of a deal than having than having a huge tree fall on my stomach," said Miller.
More than two weeks after the incident, Miller is finally able to eat solid food and said she's looking forward to getting back to her classroom.
Doctors expect her to make a full recovery.