Patient Name : Cassidy Ballard
May 31, 2004. The sun descended into the western sky across Little Lake Weir at the close of Memorial Day. One last trip around the lake to conclude the holiday celebrations; Cassidy Ballard joined her two friends on tubes behind the boat. As the boat rounded the corner, Cassidy flew off her tube.
I can’t breathe. What happened? I’m under water. I can’t move! Cassidy faded in and out of consciousness after striking some unknown object in the water. Cassidy remembers feeling arms reach under her arms and lift her just enough to get her face out of the water for her to breathe. All of this happened before her friends could even reach her.
The friends took Cassidy back to their home. They knew something was severely wrong and immediately began praying for her. One of her friends brushed Cassidy’s hair back off her face and Cassidy let out a scream. She began to vomit uncontrollably and passed out.
Orlando Regional Air Care Team flew Cassidy to Orlando Regional Level One Trauma Center. Still in her damp swimsuit, Cassidy arrived in the trauma center as her body began to go into shock.
The trauma team realized, “She’s fading. She’s not responding. We need to talk to her parents. We need to operate. They are not answering their phone. We need their cell phone number.” “(###) ###-####.” Cassidy slowly uttered her parents’ cell phone number before slipping back into unconsciousness.
Neurosurgeon John Jenkins, MD, quickly called the Ballards on their cell phone as they drove from Ocala to Orlando requesting their permission to perform emergency brain surgery. “Can you wait? We are almost there,” the Ballards asked realizing the situation was much worse than they had originally thought. “If we wait, she may die,” Dr. Jenkins said.
The half-inch thick blood clot on the right side of her brain was close to taking Cassidy’s life. After four hours of surgery, an eleven and a half inch horseshoe-shaped incision, five plates, and twenty screws, Dr. Jenkins had saved Cassidy’s life. “But would she be the same?” the Ballards wondered.
When Cassidy woke the following day, she continually seized for seventy-two hours. Panicked and reliving the moments in the water, she gasped for air like she was drowning. She feared going to sleep. Pain and nausea gripped her body. For three days, this was life for Cassidy in the Intensive Care Unit. “The pain was unbelievably bad – sharp and constant,” she says. Noises were painful because her eardrum ruptured in the trauma and her jaw ached because the surgeons needed to cut her jaw muscles in the surgery. As her injury began to heal, “it felt like snakes slithering inside my skull,” Cassidy recalls. For five days, Cassidy teetered between life and death.
The Ballards knew the expected rehabilitation could be up to six months for an injury like Cassidy’s. The list of probable changes in her was staggering: memory loss, personality change, and altered penmanship. People from around the world prayed on Cassidy’s behalf for her healing.
Determined and full of faith, Cassidy fought hard and left the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center at Orlando Regional Sand Lake hospital after only three days. Only ten days after her traumatic injury Cassidy, went home. Her healing was rapid, medically unexplainable – a walking miracle. “I know it was God,” says Cassidy.