Coming Home for Healing
Sometimes, home is where the most healing happens.
Thanks to intensive therapy and a child-focused environment that encourages healing play, most children make tremendous progress during their stay at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.
However, after several months in the hospital, some children may plateau—progress slows. At that point, children may find their spark to continue recovery when they get home.
Jailee Mitchell is one of those patients who continues to improve every day since she went home in April after being at Ranken Jordan for five months.
A Life-Changing Accident Launches a New Journey
In October 2019, 15-year-old Jailee was in a serious ATV accident near her southwest Missouri home that left her with a severe head injury. Clinging to life, Jailee was airlifted to the nearest trauma center where she spent two weeks on life support.
As she struggled to recover, her brain swelled and she needed emergency surgery. After a month in the hospital, Jailee was finally stable enough to begin rehabilitation.
Her left side was paralyzed due to her brain injury. Her neurosurgeon told Jailee’s family that the best hope for recovery was at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital in St. Louis, more than five hours from their home.
When Jailee arrived at Ranken Jordan, she was still unable to talk or walk. Yet a new journey was beginning.
Ranken Jordan’s Care Beyond the Bedside model encourages kids to get out of their rooms for therapy, socializing and play activities to help them heal faster emotionally and physically.
The unique care model made an immediate impact on Jailee. Within two days of being at Ranken Jordan, Jailee said her first words since her accident. She also started therapy to regain her ability to walk and made daily progress.
A Setback Leads to a Comeback/The Comeback Kid
Unfortunately, additional swelling in her brain from the accident led to neurosurgery again. Her initial progress was wiped away.
When she returned to Ranken Jordan for rehabilitation six weeks later, she couldn’t move either of her legs and she had lost her ability to talk again.
While these setbacks were challenging, Jailee worked hard at Ranken Jordan to improve. Her spark returned. She enjoyed aquatic therapy, as well as speech therapy where she hummed into a microphone to strengthen her voice.
“The therapy at Ranken Jordan was a huge key in helping Jailee make so much progress,” says Jailee’s mom, Beverly. “The team there also took care of our family by providing meals and gas cards. This was such a comfort since we were five hours from home and going through a life-altering experience. The care and love shown by the nurses, therapists, doctors, and everyone else was so special.”
Stepping Up the Progress
Exactly six months after her accident, Jailee finally went home from Ranken Jordan. Her family and friends held a pandemic-inspired welcome home parade that included more than 25 carloads of people enthusiastically honking and waving.
Jailee came home well prepared for success and further progress. “The care coordinator set up the initial physical therapy appointments near our home, arranged our medications for the first few weeks so we didn’t have to worry about it, and fit Jailee for her wheelchair and other equipment,” Beverly says. “It was so helpful to have everything in place when we got home since we live in a rural, remote area.”
The team also educated the family about how to care for Jailee, including lifting and transferring her. In addition, they gave Jailee exercises since she couldn’t yet walk or get up or down by herself.
By early summer, Jailee was dressing herself, brushing her own teeth and hair and feeding herself. She even began helping with chores at home again.
When she first came home, Jailee’s voice was just above a whisper. Soon she began talking, singing and chatting on her cell phone—just like any teen. Not long after that, she began walking again with an upcoming family event to motivate her.
“We thought she would never walk, talk or sing again but today she is doing it all,” Beverly says. “In June, she was able to walk down the aisle at her sister’s wedding.”
Like a typical teen, Jailee loves to talk with friends and sing along to music. Beverly doesn’t take those moments for granted any more.
“After the accident, I didn’t think she would be able to live a normal teenage life,” Beverly says. “But since she came home, she has gone shopping, swimming and is socializing just like any teenager! She is back to being Jailee.”
Although Jailee continues formal speech, occupational and physical therapy twice a week at a clinic 20 miles from her home, she multiplies those efforts at home. Jailee’s sister even created a home gym for Jailee.
The community also played a part in Jailee’s recovery. They came together to purchase a family pool pass for the Mitchells so Jailee could continue aquatic therapy on her own.
“The community’s love and support for my family has been amazing,” Beverly says. “Even strangers have helped us.”
An Inspiration to Others
The motivation and support that inspires Jailee to work hard is paying off.
“The therapists have been so impressed with the great strides Jailee has made and the therapy we’ve continued at home to help her come so far,” Beverly says. “That’s why I tell other families who have had injuries like Jailee to not give up.”
Before Jailee went home, Beverly says the Ranken Jordan team told her that kids often make more progress once they get home because they push harder to get back to their normal life.
“Ranken Jordan was always encouraging and never put a limit on what Jailee could accomplish,” Beverly says. “They were right about her progress. Once Jailee was home, she was motivated to do more for herself.”
A year after Jailee’s accident, the family held a life celebration that showcased Jailee’s victories. In November, Jailee and her family also visited Ranken Jordan so Jailee could show the team her tremendous progress and thank them.
Jailee was nervous to return but excited to see everyone. “I wanted to say thank you because what they did means a lot,” she says.
Beverly agrees. “It was bittersweet returning to Ranken Jordan but without the staff there, Jailee would not be where she is today. It was emotional with some tears, but lots of smiles, laughter, joy and happiness. I’m so glad we got to do this. I also wanted to let Jailee be an inspiration to others going through a difficult time.”