"A  MIRACLE  FOR  KIMMIE"

Please continue to pray for my niece, Kimberly Anne Oakley
This is my "progress page" for her since she went into a coma June 5th, 2001
following a motor vehicle accident and subsequent traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Kim and Joel
Kimmie and her fiance, Joel

NOTICE!
Kimmie is now out of her coma and has already gone home from rehab! We've watched a miracle as it has unfolded...& are still watching it daily. Please read Kimmie's story, including all updates & photos (in order)...if you want an inspiring story of love, hope, personal triumph, and miracles!

Please give this page a few minutes to load!  It's grown quite large & though I've considered moving some things to other pages, I hate to do that. It says so much just seeing the pictures on this main page ...please forgive the wait...it's worth it...trust me!


 
I've re-designed this site as of August, 2002 so it will be easier to navigate & understand in context. Please note that I'm leaving the original text here, as it was put online. I thought about re-wording it, but the impact is more understandable when it's kept in its original form. Because of this, ages of people involved & relative dates of events may not be current. I have also optimized the images (finally!) so the pages should load a lot faster now.

I've also added quite a few comments (just recently) after each section of images below...the comments give a more detailed explanation of what was going on during each phase of Kimmie's recovery...things I was too busy or upset to write about before now. It gives people in this predicament a better picture of  the day-to-day progress of a coma patient. I hope that some of this helps my visitors understand better. It's a rough road - please hang in there!

NEW as of AUGUST 2003: I've added a new UPDATE with photos...and a page that I should have added a long time ago. Please CLICK HERE to see this new information. It is very relevant to Kimmie's story and might help you greatly if you find yourself in a similar position (deals with life support continuance and more).

NEW as of OCTOBER 24th, 2003: I've added another UPDATE!!! This one is going to knock your socks off!! KIMMIE IS TEACHING AGAIN!





PHOTOS View Kimmie's "photo album" 
Meet the personality behind the name!  (Pictures of Kimmie before her accident)

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KIMMIE'S STORY

Kimberly Anne is a 28 year old school teacher from Manhattan, Kansas. She worked hard for her Master's Degree in teaching and her "kids" adored her. She and her fiance have been together since she was 18 years old. He finally proposed to her last Christmas. He had bought her the Jeep as a surprise birthday present last New Year's Eve (her birthday). He "wanted her to be safe" was his reason ...and oddly enough, he probably saved her life...and her brother's. The Jeep has "side crumple zones" and a sturdy construction...that is most likely the only thing that saved her...the Jeep took most of the impact instead of her.

Read details of the accident by clicking here...

side view of vehicle showing extensive damage
(click image to enlarge)
Kimmie's Jeep Grand Cherokee. She was belted into the passenger side when it was hit full-force by a fully-loaded logging truck on the morning of June 5, 2001.
close-up view of passenger side
(click image to enlarge)
This picture shows how much damage was done right where Kimberly was belted in. The front seat was only about 12" wide after the accident, though it's hard to tell that in this picture. It's no wonder her pelvis cracked!



KIMMIE'S INJURIES


Here are some pics of her progress over the first couple of weeks. It's amazing...when I first saw her in N.I.C.U., I thought she looked pretty good. I guess because I had seen the Jeep before I saw her. I thought she would "look worse"...so I was rather relieved when I saw her. It was only as I was putting these pics together for the first time that I realized how bad she did look. The pics speak for themselves.

Kim sustained severe brain injuries ... shearing of the brainstem & diffuse brain injury (click on either term for a better explanation of the extent of injury)...mostly from the initial impact & some from the swelling afterwards. These injuries left Kimberly in a very deep coma, unable to sustain her own breathing, etc. She has been placed on life support. All initial signs point to a poor prognosis. When the fire-rescue people cut her from the vehicle, Kimmie was already gurgling blood from her mouth in a feeble attempt to breathe. She has not regained any sort of consciousness since the impact of the crash. Her pelvis was cracked & she has numerous glass cuts & a blacked eye (from her own arm shielding her face, more than likely). It's really amazing there weren't more noticable/visible injuries, considering the force of the collision. All of her injuries are healing now & there's been no more brain swelling since the first few days. She just needs to wake up!
 

The doctors have given us a dire prognosis, saying "it would take a miracle" for Kimmie to wake up & resume any sort of "productive life"

....so we are waiting on  A MIRACLE FOR KIMMIE.


 

Day 2
Kim-first days in NICU
(click image to enlarge)
The patch ontop her head is where they inserted a probe into a hole in her skull to measure Intracranial Pressure (ICP)...an indicator of brain swelling. It was removed after 6 days when no further brain swelling had been detected. All of the tubes are: respirator (right now, the machine is breathing for her), "deep lines", "IVs", feeding tube, suctioning tubes, etc...
Kim-first days in NICU - full pic
(click image to enlarge)
That's her Mom (my sister, Mary) in the photo with Kimmie. The bear in the photo is one that Kim had put in an Easter basket for her mom shortly before the accident happened.

 
NOTES written much later....about this particular phase of recovery:
(Days 2-6)

At that point, the Drs. gave us some hope, but not much...she had managed to make it through the critical 24 hour mark, although she was still on life support at that time. There is nothing quite so scary/eerie/weird as seeing the respirator machine breathe for someone. It's so hard to even imagine if you haven't seen it. It's very "unnatural" the way the machine makes noise with each breath...you can watch their chest forcibly rise & fall, knowing that if the machine were to be turned off, they would simply stop breathing. It's something that I, personally, had never experienced before with a loved one...and hope that I never have to again. She was in a very deep coma at that point...unresponsive to stimuli, slight unilateral posturing, pupils fixed & unequal, etc...not good at all and we all knew it. Mary couldn't get past the fact that they had asked her about Kimmie's wishes regarding organ donation and advanced life support continuance...Kimberly was in CRITICAL Condition for the first 2 days. The fire-rescue people who had cut her from the accident were surprised that she had made it this far. Mary was understandibly depressed, thinking that Kimmie would not ever wake up, if indeed she lived...but I must give my big sister credit...she never once let on to that effect when in Kimmie's presence! We maintained an almost "cheery", upbeat attitude when around her...telling her jokes, reminding her of things that we thought might get a response, fixing her hair and putting her favorite lotions on her legs and lip gloss on her lips. We played her favorite music & kept at her side...trying to get a response. (It's been suggested by many...and I agree...that familiar sounds and smells can be a great stimulus!). The nurses & Drs. wrote on her chart that she had an "aggressive and hyper-vigilant family"! *smiles* I know that we probably got on their nerves, but I don't think they really faulted us for it  :)


Day 7
Kim - 1 week later - close-up
(click image to enlarge)
Kimmie is already looking TONS better at this point! She just had her ICP monitor removed & has about 7 stitches in her head. Still on the respirator and nasal feeding tube. Scooby was always one of her favorites. She's able to pinch his ear with her thumb & forefinger, making him "talk", if we strategically place the ear between her finger and thumb. She's starting to try & pull her tubes out now, so they have restraints on her wrists. She still has a low grade fever.
Kim- 1 week later - full pic
(click image to enlarge)
They moved her "E.T. finger" (the pulse meter on her finger had a red light on the end of it, making her fingertip look like it was glowing...like in the movie "E.T.") & two  I.V. lines to her right hand, so she'd have more mobility with her good left hand. Her arm is healing nicely & the stitches have been removed now. She still has the arterial line & board on her left hand. "Deep lines" have now been removed.

 
NOTES written much later....about this particular phase of recovery:
(Days 7-12)

Kimmie was still on the respirator here...although they had turned it down & she was matching it with her own breaths. Her lungs were getting stronger, but the inevitable pneumonia was kicking in. We had been warned of that, so it was no surprise. It is almost a certainty in  I.C.U., even with all of our medical knowledge & technology today. Although the Drs. still labeled her "unresponsive" at this point, giving her a Glasgow Score of only 3 to 5 (slight response to deep pain only - no eye responses, no purposeful movement/response, no verbal response at all, no sucking reflex or swallowing) and between a Level I and II on the Rancho Los Amigos Scale (inconsistent and non-purposeful responses to deep pain only) , the family had seen quite a few things that let us know for a fact that Kimmie was still "in there" somewhere. She was fighting desperately to respond, to the point of wearing herself out at times & dropping into a deeper coma for hours afterwards. The most we saw at this point was a slight wiggling of toes once or twice, a very hard hand squeeze (which the Drs. called an involuntary response), & occasionally an eyebrow movement (in response to her fiance telling her to "scowl" at him). Most of the time, the only way we could tell that she knew we were with her was by watching her monitors...her heart rate, breathing rate, ICP level, & blood pressure would rise when she became "agitated". It's amazing, but you can tell when they are only slightly under or in a deeper coma state! When she was deep under, we'd tell her to rest & make herself better. When she was only slightly under, we'd push her like crazy...hoping for a response. Near the end of this time period, her fiance & I were in the room with her & he reminded her of their engagement & of the ring he had given her... He placed it halfway onto her ring finger, telling her that whenever she woke up, she could have it back. She slowly & purposely reached inward with her thumb and tried to pull the ring the rest of the way onto her finger!!! We knew for certain at that point that she was aware of everything around her...no matter what the damn Drs. were telling us. It was at the end of her first 2 weeks in the coma that her primary care physician sat her fiance and myself down for a talk. He told us in no uncertain terms that Kimmie had suffered a drastic injury...a life-changing injury...and that she would probably never again lead a normal, productive life. He was very hesitant to even give us "hope" for her waking up & living with severe disabilities. He said..."it's been 2 weeks and we've seen little, if any, change in Kimberly's condition. At this point, it would literally take a miracle for her to just wake up & recover enough to lead a normal life". He thoroughly poo-pooed the idea that she'd EVER teach again. We were told that we were being "unrealistic" in the hopeful signs Kimmie was so desperately trying to give us. Boy, was he ever surprised when after a couple weeks, she opened her eyes on command & held up 2 fingers for him!! *laughs*  I think you could have knocked him over with a feather at that point :):)  She immediately slipped back into an unresponsive state, but she did it...and on command! We, of course, had seen the changes she had made, even if the Dr. hadn't. She had a great grasping reflex in her left hand...she'd pinch HARD at the bedclothes or anything else within reach of her left hand (which they had cuffed down to stop her from pulling her tubes out)...so we started bringing her in things that she could feel and do with those 2 fingers...like the Scooby-Doo doll...if we strategically placed the dog's ear within her reach, she could pinch it tightly, making him "talk". The rattle-dog in the photos was another great toy for her. It's made of a rough terry cloth which Kimmie was often found pinching/rubbing between her fingertips. We figured at that point that ANY stimulus that got her attention was a great thing :)


Day 13
Kimmie - 2 weeks
(click image to enlarge)
Isn't she beautiful????  Kimberly now has a trach tube instead of the respirator tube down her throat. That is so much better for her. More comfortable, less damage to her vocal cords, less chance of lung infections, etc...Her hair is already starting to grow back in!!
Kimmie - 2 weeks - full pic
(click image to enlarge)
MORNING - before removal of nasal feeding tube...I think she looks just like she did when she was little in this particular photo! She used to wear her hair in braids like that. They still have her left hand cuffed. She still won't use her right hand or arm at all, so they took the cuff off that one. She now has so many cards, balloons, stuffed animals & books in her room! It looks like a toy store! Kimmie has now developed full-blown pneumonia. I hope they get her sitting up soon!
Kimmie - 2 weeks - full pic 2
(click image to enlarge)
AFTERNOON - after feeding tube was moved to belly... She did really well with the surgery & started being responsive after only a few hours! She was trying to feel the tube in her belly, so we had to place a pillow over it to keep her away from it! She likes that dog she has in her left hand...it sounds like a baby rattle & she sometimes can pick it up & hit the bed with it to make it rattle. This pic was taken 2 days before they moved her to Wichita, KS.

 
NOTES written much later....about this particular phase of recovery:
(Days 13-15)

They moved Kimmie to a semi-private room at this point...out of N.I.C.U. finally! She still had the feeding tube in her nose at first, but the next day they moved it to her belly instead. They'd taken the respirator tube from her throat & put in a trach tube for her oxygen. She was no longer on "life support" (respirator wasn't "breathing" for her anymore), but she was dependent on the forced oxygen in her trach. They didn't remove that until well after she was moved to Kansas and had "woken up". Her pneumonia was horrible right before she left for Wichita. She would cough so hard that her whole body would just about sit straight up in bed. All you could do was be there for her for support...and suction out her trach when she coughed something nasty up from her lungs. I hated the fact that they were getting ready to move her to another state...it was obvious to all of us that she was becoming more responsive...she had flicked one eye open for only a second or two...but it opened...and on command! Then the day before she left, she opened her eyes on command of the Dr. and then proceeded to hold up 2 fingers for him, as well! It was only 3 days after moving her to Kansas that she finally began to wake up - only 5 minutes the first day...then for 2 hours 3 days after that...then all afternoon...then she finally snapped out of her coma state and was able to stay awake for longer periods of time and start the actual recovery process. I knew it was only a matter of time then...the last day I saw her (when I took the last photos above), I asked her to give me a sign that she heard me...that she knew I was there...and that she understood what I was saying...because I knew she was leaving and I would not get to see her again for some time...to which she gave me a weak, but obvious, "thumbs up" sign! *smiles big*  Mind you, she was still very much in a coma at that time...and had never regained any sort of consciousness since the accident...but yet there she was...giving me a "thumbs up"!! I knew at that point that we would one day have our Kimmie back with us. :)

 


Kimmie has got to be one of the most loving and selfless persons I have ever met. She grew up through adversity and overcame it. Please pray with all your heart that she will once again beat the odds. She loves life...and was just coming into her own. She's a fighter...with a stubborn will and a strong spirit. She is fighting to wake up even now. She has opened her eyes a few times, but goes right back under. She has control of her left hand now and is STRONG! (notice the cuff in the photos)  She has actually been able to hold up fingers on command. Her right side is not paralyzed, but really weak. She has twitched a few fingers on that hand and can wiggle her toes on that foot, but that's it. She now moves her left leg bent at the knee and can reach her left arm fully over her head (when not cuffed) - these are not purposeful movements or gestures, but more of a flailing of limbs...but it does show us that the limbs are not paralyzed. She was "feeling" her respirator/trach tube, as well as her "not so good" right hand, yesterday...like she was trying to figure out what they were. She was pinching her fingers on her bad hand with the fingers of her good hand...as if they were asleep or something...and gently running her hand up and down the trach tube without trying to pull it out. I take all of these as really good signs!!! She still can't seem to wake up, but yesterday she opened her eyes on command (without hesitation!!) for the disbelieving Dr...and then proceeded to hold up 2 fingers for him on command!! *chuckles*  Startled him, needless to say :):):) This was the very same Dr. who had sat her fiance and myself down a week ago and told us she may never respond to anything...and that she would be severely brain damaged, etc...I told him then..."You don't know Kim!"

Today (Wed. June 20th, 2001), they are flying her out to Wichita, Kansas to a good hospital/rehab nearer her home and fiance. All of the family here are heart-broken, needless to say. Her brothers, father, me (her aunt), and grandparents are all here. I hate that she has to be so far away from all of the love and support of her family, but at least she will have my sister (her Mom) there with her...and her fiance and his family...not to mention all of her friends and co-workers. I hear that the place she is going is a good place...with progressive, intensive therapy...including animals even...which is something she loves...she has 2 dogs that she loves dearly. They somewhat took the place of the babies she never had...yet.

I still plan on making it out to visit sometime nearer the end of the Summer...I want to see this place for myself...and maybe, if we are all blessed, she will be awake then...we are keeping our fingers crossed and our hopes up anyhow! All of the love and prayers that have been sent her way are working...I know it for a fact. The outpour of caring from everyone, including total strangers...has been amazing...and it's something you can feel when you walk into her presence.

Thank you all for your love and support...and constant prayers...

It's working...and it's appreciated more than you know!!!

Leslie O'Neal
newfriendtwo@hotmail.com
June 20th, 2001


 

 

 



 


UPDATES

(These pages should open in a new window. If that doesn't work, simply press the "back" button on your browser to return to this page after viewing each update.)

June 22, 2001: 
First Update since they moved Kimmie to Kansas

June 23, 2001: 
Kimmie Woke Up for 5 Minutes Today!!!

June 26, 2001: 
Kimmie woke up for over 2 hours today!!!

June 27, 2001: 
Kimmie Gets Playful and Is Getting Stronger by the Day!!!

June 29, 2001: 
Kimmie wants to speak and shows how she can spell!

July 2, 2001: 
KIMMIE IS OFFICIALLY AWAKE!!! A "MUST READ" UPDATE!

July 9, 2001: 
Kimmie is now at the rehab center and doing great!

July 12, 2001: 
Kimmie had her trach removed!!

July 17, 2001: 
Kimmie TALKS! She might go home as soon as next month!!

July 18, 2001: 
Kimmie swallowed food & drink today!! She'll definitely go home in 3 weeks!

July 25, 2001: 
Kimberly Anne will go home on my birthday...only 2 months after her accident!

August 7th, 2001: 
KIMMIE GOES HOME TODAY - exactly 9 weeks after the accident!

August 16, 2001: 
Kimmie gets great news from the Dr.! She's a "quadruple miracle", he says!

August 16, 2001: PHOTOS
PICTURES!! We finally got some - not the newest, but they do show her AWAKE!

August 23, 2001: PHOTOS
NEWEST PHOTOS! These are SO GREAT!! You aren't going to believe how great she looks!

September 1, 2001: 
3 months after the accident - Kimmie DRIVES again! She's walking completely unaided!

October 4, 2001: 
Kimmie has 3 weeks of therapy left in Wichita, then on toward the future!

October 23, 2001: 
Kimmie's gonna DANCE!! She & her fiance leave for a cruise this coming weekend...
("I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack .mp3 music file download and other mp3s available)

October 24, 2001: PHOTOS
NEW PHOTOS have arrived! Shooting pool (she won!), dancing with her fiance...& more!

November 28, 2001: PHOTOS
Update & Newest Photos Added from her cruise & Thanksgiving here at home!

February 24, 2002: 
Kimmie is working as a teacher's aide! Also see the newest "progress report" from her Drs.

September 13, 2002: PHOTOS
15 months after the accident, Kimmie is going strong. Also, the Newest Photos of Kimmie taken this Summer! 

August 22, 2003:  PHOTOS
2 years after the accident...August 2003 Update...with PHOTOS!

October 24, 2003: PHOTOS
KIMMIE IS TEACHING AGAIN!! - a MUST READ Update! 




 



MAJOR ADDITIONS TO THE SITE CAN BE FOUND HERE!

Since the creation of this site, I have met many people who were searching for more information on TBI/coma. I understand that in a time of crisis, the last thing we want to be doing is searching all over the internet for information! For that very reason, I have expanded on Kimmie's original "personal story site" to include many links that you will find interesting, educational, and often inspiring. There is a bit of everything included: from articles to official organizations...from personal stories of triumph to maps of the brain. Please check out the following links. There are literally 100's of informative pages at your fingertips now...with no more searching!!

L e s l i e  O'Neal
JULY 29, 2001

 

 


 

TBI RESOURCE PAGES
All of the following WWWlinks are found on one links page. Feel free to go there and navigate through these sections. I've placed this navigation table on the main page for ease in finding specific information if you know what you're looking for.
 
BRAIN INJURY LINKS - the major sites for info TBI  GLOSSARY - Definition of Medical Terms
Misc. Brain Injury Related LINKS & ARTICLES COMA SCALES - Glasgow vs. Rancho Los Amigos
REHAB & RECOVERY Related Links TBI Related POETRY
TBI SURVIVORS' HOMEPAGES Brain Injury Related BOOKS
How to Get FREE & Low-Cost MEDICINES Brain Injury Related Web Rings
Software, Aids, Equipment, Supplies for BI Patients Brain Injury Related HEADLINE NEWS
- major resource
FREE STUFF (wheelchairs, computers) CHATS, E-MAIL LISTS, & Message Boards

These Info Pages are separate from the ones above. Each one will open in its own window when clicked. I have borrowed information from numerous sources and written these pages as to include what I consider to be the most important and often asked about information relating to coma & traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Brain Injury (BI) Info Page:

...includes Statistics, Facts, Info on Rehab & Home Care, Caregiver's Survival Guide, Causes, Levels, & Types of BI
I.C.U. Equipment & Procedures:
...explains the contraptions you will see when you enter the intensive care unit; also defines the most common procedures & tests performed on patients. Personal commentary answers some of the most-asked questions regarding all of these things, as well.
Medical Terminology:
...words you will hear professionals use when relating the level of functioning / disabilities associated with the TBI patient; includes 2 sections - physical and mental (cognitive); ex: APHASIA, ATAXIA, DYSPHAGIA.
Medical Professionals:
...easy-to-understand definitions of the medical personnel you will most likely come in contact with; who they are and what their job is in the treatment and rehabilitation of the TBI patient; also a brief set of guidelines for choosing the right doctor & therapist.

TBI BOOKS, AUDIOBOOKS, & VIDEOS:

...an extensive list of books, audiobooks, and videos relating to TBI, Coma, Caregiving, & Rehabilitation. I have partnered with 2 major booksellers in order to bring you these titles at the lowest possible cost. Each of the following "bookstores" contain different titles. Please visit them both when shopping for books.

BOOKSTORE 1

BOOKSTORE 2





"Natural" is the way to go!  :)

 


 
 

OUR NEW GUESTBOOK 

Feel free to leave comments, suggestions, links, etc...