WTTW-TV journalist Elizabeth Brackett remained in a coma Thursday afternoon with a fractured vertebra in her neck after a lakefront bicycle accident, but she will not require any spinal surgery, the television station reported.
Relatives of the veteran “Chicago Tonight” reporter and host credited an anonymous good Samaritan with saving her life. They told WTTW they expect to learn more about her condition in the next 72 hours.
An award-winning journalist and triathlete, Brackett, 76, was in critical but stable condition at Stroger Hospital following the Wednesday morning accident.
Her vertebrae have realigned, so she will not require surgery, according to the report. Brackett was originally believed to have had two fractured vertebrae in her neck.
Passersby first noticed Brackett sitting upright in a grassy area about 25 or 30 feet off the bike path near 3900 South on Wednesday, fire department spokesman Larry Langford said Thursday.
A short time later, a passerby called 911 after noticing that Brackett was laying down in the grass and the color of her skin had begun to turn blue, Langford said.
A 911 dispatcher began to walk a good Samaritan through the CPR process until police arrived a short time later and took over. Moments later an ambulance arrived and paramedics began trying to revive her, Langford said.
Brackett’s family issued a statement Friday expressing gratitude for “the efforts of the Chicago Police and Fire Departments,” and for the “heroic efforts of the good Samaritan who initially found Elizabeth and the police officer who administered CPR on the scene, as well as the doctors nurses and staff at Stroger Hospital who are caring for Elizabeth.”
There was no outward indication that she’d been in an accident — no scratches, dirt, bumps or bruises that were visible, Langford said.
“CPR was given and all advanced life support protocols were followed as she was transported to Mercy Hospital in critical condition,” Langford said. She later was transferred to Stroger, he said.
It’s unclear if she fell off the bike or came to a controlled stop, Langford said.
The incident took place on a portion of the lakefront path where construction to create separate paths for cyclists and pedestrians was completed last year.
Carol Marin, a veteran political reporter and friend of Brackett’s, said Brackett was training for a triathlon along the Lakefront.
Brackett retired from the public broadcast station in 2014 after two decades as a full-time correspondent for “Chicago Tonight,” covering business and sports, local environmental and genetic research. During that time she also provided local stories for the national series “PBS NewsHour.” She remains an occasional contributor to the Chicago program — one of her reports, on the reduced number of boats in Monroe Harbor, aired last week.
Marin called her colleague “the real deal, the whole package.” The two have known each other since 1979 when they covered Mayor Jane Byrne.
“She’s a warrior, she’s dogged, competitive, ferocious, smart and politically savvy. That applies to news and to her athleticism,” Marin said.
Brackett’s work has garnered two Midwest Emmy Awards, two Peter Lisagor Awards for Business Journalism and a National Peabody Award, among others.
She is also a decorated athlete — Brackett is a world champion triathlete who first competed at age 50. She won five international titles in her age group – including one just last year in Rotterdam. Recent Facebook posts on May 31 and June 9, show her preparing for another competition.
“She’s a fierce competitor and friendly person, and an inspiration to our entire class,” Sharone Aharon, who has been training Brackett since 2006. told WTTW.
“We are family here,” said Aharon, owner of Well-Fit Performance. “She’s the center of it. She’s like a mother to me and a friend.”
“The family of Elizabeth Brackett is grateful for the outpouring of love and support shown by all of Chicago since her accident Wednesday,” Brackett’s relatives said in a statement Friday, extending special thanks to “Elizabeth’s family at WTTW for their support at this difficult time.”