Lake Country Faces: Accident victim maintains sunny disposition

Annette Tyrrell has a sunny disposition that not even losing a hand could dampen according to her husband David. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

What would it take for most people to lose their sunny disposition? For many, an unexpected and expensive repair bill or a bad case of the flu might do the trick. For others, a long line to get coffee in the morning is enough.

For Annette Tyrrell, of Pine River, losing her dominant hand wasn't enough to keep her down.

On July 4, a holiday that many use to unwind and reconnect, Tyrrell was riding a side-by-side all-terrain vehicle on a dirt road near Browerville when calamity struck. The ATV hit a patch of soft dirt and the tires caught unevenly, rolling it over onto Tyrrell's upper arm and changing her life.

Her daughter, a registered nurse, acted fast and likely saved her life while also keeping those present calm. Because of her nursing background, Tyrrell and her husband, David, decided Annette's daughter should go to the hospital with her, as the COVID-19 situation limited the family to one visitor.

David said he was devastated after the surgery to amputate his wife's hand and lower arm. She, on the other hand, barely missed a beat.


“By 1:30 a.m. she called to let me know she was OK,” David said. “And it was the same voice she has now, except maybe a tinge of morphine. She was a little upbeat. When I had my heart attack they would have flown me by helicopter, but the helicopter was out on another call. I remember complaining I didn't get to fly in the helicopter. The first thing out of her mouth at 1:30 a.m., just a few hours after surgery were, 'Ha ha, I got to fly in the helicopter.'”

Annette had already come to terms with it.

“Two things I knew instantly was that God was there,” Annette said. “I just knew that. Don't ask me how, so I kind of felt like everything was going to be fine. The second thing I knew instantly was that I lost my arm. It was like, 'OK, let's move on now. It's over, let's go on.'”

This attitude is nothing new to David, because if there is one thing special about Annette, it's how hard it is to get her down.

“I'm kind of a glass half empty type person,” David said. “She's a glass half full or overflowing person. She will apologize for being in a bad mood, and it's like, 'What are you talking about?' She's smiling even when she thinks she's in a bad mood. It is really uplifting.”

Annette kept the doctors on their toes while in the hospital. It's hard to tell now, but her face was covered with road rash after the accident and her eyes were black. She immediately had nurses cracking up with jokes at her own expense when she first looked in the mirror, and they didn't know what to think when she started referring to equipment in her hospital room by pet names, like Chester, her wound vacuum. She was determined not to focus on her misfortune.

Annette may be familiar in Pine River as she has long been a part of the community. She may have been born in Minneapolis, but since approximately 1996, she's lived near Pine River where her two children lived with her. She's been with David since 1999. Residents may remember her from years of working at Carl's Market or Pine River State Bank. She's also an active member of the Pequot Lakes Baptist Church.

Until July 4, she had been working for the Pine River Group Home as a direct support professional. Of course, that may change now.


“I work with four residents and we help them with daily living skills,” Annette said. “And it's nice. I can't do that right now. I'm not sure when I'll be able to return, or if. I'll have to wait and see how my healing goes and so forth. You need to give it your all and you need to be there wholly for them.”

Annette said she didn't always want to go to work, but she still enjoyed her job very much, so the prospect of losing it now isn't particularly cheery. There are certain duties she may have difficulty performing without her dominant hand, and given certain aggressive behaviors, there is also a question of her ability to protect herself if needed. A lot remains to be seen.

Losing her dominant hand has also interfered with her hobbies. Annette enjoys everything from coloring, doing needle work and reading. She is determined to live in the “now” and hasn't necessarily set goals, but from the moment she awoke in the hospital she has been working to learn to do things left-handed.

“They were surprised after my second surgery that I was sitting up trying to use my left hand to write my name,” Annette said. “And I was coloring. They were amazed.”

Writing still takes a lot of concentration, but perhaps her one goal in mind now is to get back to quilting.

“I'm working on a quilt,” Annette said. “I still have to do the needle work. I'm already processing in my mind how I can do that with just the one arm. My goal is to finish that quilt, then I have another quilt I have to make after it, so I have to get going.”

Her support structure helps to keep a smile on her face. In addition to God, she gives a great deal of credit to her husband, David, and her daughters, especially the one who stopped her from bleeding out at the accident site.

She is depending on community support now. Her helicopter flight alone cost more than $30,000, and then there were the surgeries. She and David have no insurance, and now with only one income, the family is looking for support from those around them.


“The medical expenses are really bad and because we have a cut income right now it's hard to pay regular bills,” David said. “We love our home. We love the community we live in. It's really scary. We're getting through getting her on the mend, and now the other shoe is going to drop, and that is expense.”

David's sister set up a GoFundMe account to aid with Annette's costs. It's titled "Optimism and hope after losing dominant hand" and can be found at . The goal is to raise $80,000 for expenses. They say many other charities right now are focused on COVID-19, making finding assistance difficult.

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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