Letter to the editor - Mitch Holmes, best Thanksgiving ever. Update on his daughter's progress, who was injured in a car accident earlier this year.

While people around the country gathered with their families to celebrate Thanksgiving, our family had an extra special reason to give thanks to God this year.

On Sept. 20, our daughter Noelle was in a near-deadly collision with an 18-wheeler at the hwy 50/281 intersection. Our family will never forget the sight of her in the Stafford county hospital as we waited for the helicopter to arrive and rush her to a trauma center in Wichita. Nor will we forget the uncertainty in the voice of the trauma doctor as he apprised us of Noelle’s condition.

She had suffered “traumatic brain injury” with the specific diagnosis of Diffuse Axonal Injury. We were told she could be unconscious for 24 hours or 2 months…there was no way to predict. The length of the coma would be an indication of how severe the brain was injured. So we waited in suspense for 10 days before she regained semi-consciousness. Because the injury was diffuse, there was no way to know how she would be affected.

After four days of semi-consciousness, she was transferred to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, NE. When she arrived at Madonna, the right side of her body did not function, and her left side was very limited. She still had a tracheostomy and feeding tube. The staff at Madonna estimated her stay there would be longer than the typical brain injury patient after evaluating her.

One of Noelle’s first actions when she discovered she could use her left arm was to give everyone a one-armed hug. At one point (unable to speak), she was “indicating” she wanted a hug about every 5-10 minutes. There were several family members there at the time, so she had a steady supply of hugs even though she still needed help just to sit up.

After removal of the “trach”, she eventually she began to whisper. After two days of whispering, she remembered how to talk. Her speech was slow and labored, but she was extremely pleased! That day, her sister who was staying with her at the time, called the rest of us at home so Noelle could talk to us. The thrill of hearing her was enough to bring tears to everyone. I recorded much of that first call on a computer so we could enjoy it indefinitely. Shortly after learning to speak, she asked her sister to climb into bed with her to watch a movie. So the two of them sat in that single wide hospital bed watching a DVD together!

The whole time she was in ICU, she had a friend or family member with her. The entire time she was in rehab in Nebraska, her mother and two older sisters took turns staying with her, while I shuttled them and her younger siblings back and forth on weekends. So our household has had a minimum of a 2-person “hole” in the family during the ordeal.

To the surprise of the staff at Madonna, she made rapid progress in her recovery. One person, who was present in the trauma center the day of her accident, posted on Facebook that we were experiencing a miracle before our eyes. Noelle was discharged 3 weeks prior to their original projection, and was home just in time for Thanksgiving and her grandparents’ 50th anniversary. She will still have an extended out-patient process close by in Pratt. We give our most sincere thanks to all our friends who supported us throughout the past two months, and we thank God for hearing the prayers of so many friends and family. The Holmes family had their best Thanksgiving ever this year!

Mitch Holmes, St. John