‘Determined’: WES teacher’s 12-year-old daughter makes ‘surprising progress’ after paralyzing stroke

Fri, 09/09/2022 - 8:45am
    At Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GeorgiaWiscasset Elementary School pre-K teacher Samantha Crawford is at daughter Angelina’s bedside around the clock. In June, the horseback riding, hiking, biking, cooking, beach-going, reading-loving 12-year-old had a stroke that paralyzed her from the neck down, Crawford said.
    Angelina has started to move, but not lift, all but one limb, is starting to be weaned off a ventilator, has maintained her intelligent, inquisitive personality throughout and has her heart set on getting back on a horse, her mother told Wiscasset Newspaper in a phone interview Sept. 7 and in email responses to questions.
    The Jefferson girl had neck and arm pain the morning of June 22, Crawford recalled. “Rapidly, her arms became unable to move.” Crawford took her to the Miles Campus Hospital emergency room in Damariscotta. Angelina’s oxygen and heart rates were “dangerously low,” and she was transferred to Maine Medical Center in Portland. There, Crawford said, “Angelina began to destabilize again until she was intervened and intubated. Within 24 hours, she was stable and it was determined she suffered a pediatric spinal stroke that impacted her medulla (brain stem) down through her cervical spine C5/C6.”
    After many tests and meetings with neurologists, hematologists, pulmonologists and other doctors, no cause has been found, Crawford said.
    The focus is on recovery and rehabilitation. “We have heard a range of prognosis from remaining on a ventilator and never moving again to having hope of rehabilitation but unsure of how far. She started turning her head just a few days after, on June 25, and had her first movement below her neck on July 19, shrugging her shoulders and moving fingers on her left hand.”
    Aug. 8, she was transferred to Shepherd Center and its spinal cord injury rehabilitation program, where she is working on weaning off the ventilator, strengthening muscles that have started moving again “and maximizing her physical potential with hope of regaining functional use of her body again. At this time, she has regained full muscle movement in her left arm and leg, most of her right arm, and her core. We hope that her right leg will soon begin to move again too.”
    Angelina is approaching things the way she always has: Asking what and why, her mother said. “We are thankful that her stroke did not impact her brain and personality and she continues to be the inquisitive girl she always has been. She makes sure to keep asking questions to all her medical and rehabilitation staff to get a deeper understanding of what and why for her care.”
    How are Crawford, Angelina and Angelina’s sister Rosaria, 10, coping? “It is a life-changing experience that is not always easy,” Crawford said. Rosaria got to visit often at MMC, but only via video calls since Angelina’s transfer to Shepherd Center. “They miss each other a lot and we are very thankful for technology ... to stay connected. It is not the same as our family being together and we look forward to being home together again, even though it will look different, we will be together. I am beyond thankful for all the love and support that friends and family have provided to support Rosaria when I've been away to support Angelina.”
    The WES community has been amazing throughout, including “when all was chaos” after the stroke, Crawford said. The staff took over cleaning up her classroom for the summer and have continued to provide support and encouragement, mailing cards or otherwise checking in, and helping get the school year started while she stays focused on supporting Angelina.
    “I stay right at her bedside 24/7. I am thankful that COVID protocols have been lifted to allow me to be with her as this is a journey that she will be most successful doing with all the support she can have. Due to the rarity of her trauma and lack of medical research because of it, the prognosis of her recovery is unknown. She is continuing to make surprising progress which leaves her discharge date unknown. She will continue in inpatient rehabilitation with the potential discharge of mid-November and the option to continue to receive care here in their day treatment program.”
    A GoFundMe campaign benefiting Angelina’s medical costs and any other family costs around her treatment is at https://gofund.me/261eabf5
    WES Principal Kathleen Pastore said collaboration is underway on a fundraising event for later this fall. “The staff of Wiscasset Elementary School is a unique group of individuals who embody kindness and compassion. When we have a student or family that is in need, they rally like no other group I have ever seen to provide both financial and emotional support,” Pastore said in an email Sept. 7.
    Crawford said Angelina loves getting cards in the mail. The address is: 
    Angelina Puiia
    Room #429
    Shepherd Center
    Angelina is “all the time” trying to move and strengthen her muscles, her mother said. “She’s determined.”