Story of Healing
It was the worst phone call she’s ever received in her life. On November 12, 2020, Christal Uehling learned her daughter had been in a car accident. Devastatingly, she learned her daughter-in-law and the front seat passenger did not survive the crash. Her granddaughters, Meredith and Memori, were also in the car that day. The life altering phone call came from Child Protective Services, and Christal learned when the rescue team arrived at the scene of the crash, four-year-old Meredith didn’t have a pulse.
“It was devastating,” says Christal. “I learned my daughter veered into the other lane and hit a vehicle head on. My granddaughter, Meredith, was airlifted to our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge with a broken neck, brain bleed, fractured foot, ribs, and lacerations from the seatbelt.”
Meredith was then transported to Children’s Hospital New Orleans where she entered rehab for speech, occupational, and physical therapies.
“For 3 weeks she couldn’t eat food. She had to learn how to swallow all over again and try to overcome her traumatic brain injury,” Christal describes.
“Meredith arrived at our Inpatient Rehab program in early December with the diagnoses of an atlanto-occipital dislocation, also known as internal decapitation, multiple fractures, and a traumatic brain injury,” explains Kimberly Spezio, a speech pathologist here at Children’s Hospital.
“Given the nature of her brain injury, her speech and swallowing were severely impaired, and she subsequently required a gastronomy tube to provide her body with nutrients while she could not eat. It took time for Meredith to warm up to the therapists, but fortunately she was very motivated by food!” shared Kimberly. “By the end of her rehab course in late January, Meredith was eating and drinking all her favorite foods again, specifically bologna sandwiches!”
Meredith’s speech also improved, and she became a cheerleader for other children in the rehab program. The rehab teams says that each day she worked hard towards her rehab goals, and her family was extremely supportive throughout her journey.
Christal even made sure to bring the Christmas spirit to Meredith while she was in the hospital by decorating her room and continuing family holiday traditions. Meredith loved to request music, specifically “It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time.” Her favorite songs were often incorporated as rewards for working hard in physical and occupational therapies on fine motor skills, sitting balance, standing, and walking.
“Now, Meredith gets around by using a wheelchair and a walker. No matter what, she keeps her spirits high! She loves to FaceTime, ride her four-wheeler, play with her baby bulls, and swim,” says Christal. “Without the rehab team at Children’s Hospital, I don’t know what we would’ve done. Her team there and here in Monroe are just awesome!”
Click here to learn more about Rehab Services at Children’s Hospital New Orleans.