McKinley Blue is finally going home. With her sister by her side, and a pink helmet on her head, she flexed her muscles in triumph over her recent misfortune.
The 5-year-old has had to overcome a tremendous amount of stress, and couldn’t help but grin as she left the hospital.
McKinley was in the backseat of her grandmother’s car on May 11, when a pickup truck rear-ended the vehicle at high speed. The child suffered a traumatic brain injury that resulted in a two-week hospital stay.
During that time, McKinley was put into an induced coma and had to have part of her skull removed.
The spunky 5-year-old arrived at the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska, in a wheelchair, but was walking out on her own two feet, with her supportive family at her side.
“She’s just a completely different kid,” Kate Scott, a Madonna speech language pathologist said to the Omaha-World Herald. “She’s up dancing and moving. She’s often got a smile on her face.”
Nurses and therapists have marveled at how far McKinley has come in a short period of time. They believe the secret to her speedy recovery is the support she’s received from her 10-year-old sister, Miley.
McKinley’s biggest supporter
“I think her mom calls her her primary therapist because she’s in therapy with her,” Scott said to KETV. “She’s encouraging her, she’s telling her ‘oh come on McKinley, you can do better than that.'”
“Patients who don’t have family here don’t always make as many strides because they don’t have that support,” Scott said.
It comes as no surprise to the girls’ mother, Jessica Blue, that Miley has been McKinley’s greatest supporter and motivator.
“McKinley always responds to Miley the most—at home, anything, she’s always a leader, anything she does McKinley will follow,” Jessica said.
McKinley currently wears a pink helmet to protect her fragile skull. As a sign of solidarity, Miley has pledged to wear a matching helmet as long as her sister does.
“I wanted her to feel like she was beautiful,” Miley said to the Omaha-World Herald of her decision to wear the helmet. “It’s really amazing to see how much she’s improved. I’m really proud of her. I can’t even explain how happy I am for her.”
Doctors believe McKinley will be able to stop wearing the helmet sometime around August.
McKinley’s hospital release was sweet for more than one reason. Even though her birthday was technically July 12, she celebrated turning five a day early at Madonna with cupcakes, polka dot balloons, and a baby doll.
At the party, the hospital staff awarded McKinley with their Spirit Award.
“This is an award that we give to people who do such an amazing job,” Scott said as she presented McKinley the award.
The triumphant girl will start kindergarten in the fall, and after spending the summer fighting to reclaim her life, learning her ABCs should come easily.
A GoFundMe page to raise donations for McKinley’s hospital expenses was started by a family friend.