Road traffic accident: Kellie and Hayley

Kellie Holifield's teenage daughter, Hayley was involved in a serious accident as a seven-year-old.

She is in vegetative state and Kellie has become familiar with her daughter's emotions and signs of what she needs, although she cannot communicate by talking.

Published: April 2015. Date of brain injury: 2008 (child age 7 years). Here Kellie explains how she wishes doctors could have explained more about the injury and her misunderstandings of her daughter's recovery process.

What were your thoughts when you were given the news?

I was so hopeful, very positive. My prayers were that I didn’t care if I had to take care of her the rest of her life, just don’t take her from me. At the beginning I didn’t have time to think of her condition, I just didn’t want her to die. But with that said, I was never told your child will be in a vegetative state, when they gave me the option to take her off life support. When I asked what she would be able to do, doctors couldn’t give an answer. She showed brain activity, she was alive and I believed this wasn’t my choice to make. The first two weeks she was on life support and was kept in an induced coma, her ICP kept rising. Doctors explained she would begin to become stable and I had to make the decision on whether to take her off life support. But not one person said she might not have any quality of life. The diagnosis came three years later, that she had an axonal injury. I had thought the worst was us having to teach her how to relearn everything.

How has life been since Hayley sustained her injury?

For the first few years, I remained hopeful, I gained a lot from my faith and was very positive, believing there would be a miracle. However I’d actually already had the miracle. She’s survived. Hayley had spinal surgery four years after her injury. That year we got nursing service. She’s had pneumonia once. But other than her brain injury, she’s very healthy.

Did you get support and did you accept it?

I had tons of support from family, friends and strangers. I regret now not letting them help more. I relied completely on my faith and God. I did have to get used to stares from strangers, parents hushing their children when they ask questions. If only they knew I loved the asking, it was my opportunity to preach seat belt safety; my best advice.

What is Hayley's condition like now and what are the remaining effects?

Hayley is 14 in June, her accident was right after her seventh birthday. She has a trachy and feeding tube. She’s in a persistent vegetative state, according to doctors. She has regular sleep/awake patterns, moves her arms and legs but has no muscle control of her neck and back. She cannot sit up on her own. She smiles at me, frowns, I can tell if she's frustrated or relaxed, sometimes more stimulated than others. She will have small seizures if over stimulated. Basically I watched her grow up in a bed, only staring.

If you could give one piece of advice or encouragement to other parents who have a child who suffered a brain injury what would it be?

Seek therapy now. Get a relationship with God. Ask questions, ask over and over till your satisfied. Accept all help, do not be prideful. I have so many past regrets of things I took for granted when Hayley was a normal child. Don’t let this type of thing eat you alive.

Any other thoughts you would like to add?

Thank you for your page, for this way to share a story. I’m not exaggerating when I say, this was therapy for me. I feel like a voice being heard, someone who understands. I just realized my Hayley is a miracle, thanks for reminding me. She's my hero.
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