Written by: David Stanley, Kaylee’s Father
(Picture: Kaylee visiting House in March 2021 dropping off donations for Online Auction)
I had always heard of the Ronald McDonald House, but never really knew what it was. I had given change at McDonald’s restaurants. We had saved soft drink tabs and donated through school. Sometimes you don’t understand something until you have to understand it. When you’re forced to understand it. That’s what happened to our family.
Our daughter Kaylee Stanley was in a horrific car accident on December 6, 2019. Her car flipped multiple times off the road, across a creek, and into the woods. This was on a rural, back road with very little traffic. As grace would have it, a woman picking up her Mother-in-law to take her to physical therapy and saw something as they drove by, so they backed their car and saw Kaylee’s car deep in the woods. The woman called her son, who is a volunteer fire fighter at the fire department a few miles away and is also a paramedic for the City of Martinsville. He was on the scene in a matter of minutes, since he couldn’t get Kaylee out of the car himself, he went back and called for help, help arrived within five minutes. Her car was upside down and they had to cut the car open to get her out. They then put her on a stretcher and carried her out of the woods, over a ladder that spanned the creek, and then up the hill to the ambulance.
The Wake Forest Baptist Health AirCare helicopter was dispatched to fly her to the hospital. Because the pick-up spot was two miles closer to Roanoke than to Winston Salem, the helicopter crew flew her to Roanoke. Those two miles were critical. When she arrived at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, she was immediately evaluated and sent for CT scans and other tests. She had broken her jaw in half, fractured her cheek bone, had multiple skull fractures, bilateral dissected carotid arteries, and brain swelling and bleeding. They had to remove one side of her skull to operate on it and give room for the swelling. Later that evening, they found a hemorrhage on the other side and had to remove that side of her skull too. She was then sent to the Trauma Intensive Care Unit.
They did not expect Kaylee to survive, but they told us that if anyone could, it would be a young, healthy person. Kaylee was one week away from her 19th birthday. She had multiple surgeries and she had multiple setbacks, but she kept fighting. She started responding and showing progress. After two weeks in the Trauma ICU with amazing surgeons, doctors, nurses, and therapists, she was able to be moved to the Progressive Care Unit and out of ICU. We celebrated Christmas in the hospital. It was a very different Christmas, but we could celebrate that she was still alive. My wife and I left the hospital one time to take a shower at the Hotel Roanoke, a friend had reserved a room for us to get out of the hospital. It was really the only time we left the hospital that December. We slept in her room and in the waiting room.
When she was discharged on January 2nd, 2020 and sent to Carilion Inpatient Rehab, we finally reached out to the Ronald McDonald House about staying there. The doctors had been asking us to get a room there, but we just could not leave the hospital. Our families had been up to help us and we needed a place to rest, the family and us, and to take showers. Initially that is all we thought the Ronald McDonald House would be. Part of the family went to tour the house and meet the staff and we were blown away. Every one of us cried as we met the staff and saw everything the house offers families.
(Picture: Kaylee and her family at Thanksgiving 2021 – L to R: Gary Haden, Judy Haden, Dawn Stanley Osborne, Kaylee Stanley, Tabatha Stanley, Conner Stanley, Elsie Stanley, Nelson Stanley, and David Stanley)
The rooms were beautiful and accommodating. But above that, the staff was so loving and compassionate. They remembered us, remembered Kaylee’s name even though they hadn’t met her. To watch the community volunteer to make meals and serve the families dinner was so heartwarming. My wife stayed at Community Hospital in Inpatient Rehab with Kaylee while we toured the house. When I called her, I couldn’t even talk through my tears. I was overwhelmed. We all were. It made me happy that we had donated in the past and did things for the Ronald McDonald House, but we quickly realized we had not done enough.
We stayed at the house for the entire month of January 2020. When Kaylee had a surgery to put titanium coils in two pseudoaneurysms and place a stent in her carotid artery February 5, we made plans to check out of the house the next morning. Kaylee did well with the surgery, and we went home on the 6th. That night though, she fainted, and we had to call 911. She fainted again while rescue was there, and they took her to Martinsville Hospital and did CT scans and found some blood on her brain. The weather was too bad for a helicopter, so they rushed her by ambulance back to Roanoke where she was admitted to the ICU again. It was determined that some of that was from the blood thinners during the surgery, but neurologically she was doing good.
She was admitted back to Inpatient Rehab to recover from that surgery, the procedure really set her back in a lot of areas. We reached out to the Ronald McDonald House again and got another room and stayed for the month of February.
In April, they could finally do the surgeries to put Kaylee’s skull back on. Because most patients don’t have both sides of their skull removed, they did this in two surgeries spaced about three weeks apart. She had her left side of her skull placed back on April 3rd and she went back to Inpatient Rehab between surgeries. And then on April 23rd, she had the right side placed back on. She did really well with these, especially considering the magnitude of them. She did developed seizures after the first surgery which is common after Traumatic Brain Injuries and these surgeries. They are not frequent, but they happen every 30 to 60 days. And they come out of the blue. She is managing them, and she bounces back from them faster than I do. I have learned that Kaylee is stronger than I have ever been. She is a miracle.
After being in Roanoke for six months, we finally got to go back home at the end of May 2020. During this six-month period, my wife never left Roanoke and I only drove home three times to get things and bring them back. When we were at the Ronald McDonald House, I moved my office from our house and worked from the Ronald McDonald House. It became our home, and it became my office for two months. One thing that we have hated is that we have not been able to take Kaylee to the house for her to see it and meet many people there because of the pandemic. Something that was so important to our family for those two months, and we can’t visit yet. But we will.
Kaylee has taken a few online classes at the community college this year. She took three classes this fall and is doing really well. She processes information differently than before, but she does so good. She manages her time and organizes her work. She is a miracle and is doing amazingly well. Going from thinking she would not survive, to wondering if she would be able to do anything for herself, to watching her make meals and take classes and do so much. She is doing so many things that we all take for granted. Things she couldn’t do for much of 2020. And she keeps on progressing. She will still have a long road ahead of her, but she has come so far already.
Our time at The Ronald McDonald House was so incredibly important to our family. It is far more than just a house. It is a community where people band together to help their neighbor. Even their neighbors that they have never met and possibly will never meet. The human experience is wrapped around family and friends. And sometimes, those friends are people you have never met. People helping people. In their greatest moments of need. We can never thank the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Virginia enough. Nor the people who volunteer their time and love and prepare meals for all the families. The staff is wonderful and caring and they made us feel at home. We need to do more to help them out and Kaylee cannot wait until she can visit and volunteer. Thank you all so much and we love y’all.