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Denver Health Success Stories

From patients and professional staff to a new pet therapy program handler, those closest to Denver Health share details from their experiences with our hospital.

After Impaling Her Head on a Snow Gun, Laken Wilson's Family Celebrates Life

Laken Wilson in Christmas ParadeFormer Miss Delta State University Laken Wilson and her family are celebrating life and how far they’ve come since New Year’s Day 2012. Laken was in Steamboat Springs skiing with her friend's family, when she slipped on some ice and fell, hitting her head on a snow making gun. She was airlifted to Denver Health where she underwent several hours of surgery to remove bone fragments from the left side of her brain and stop her brain from bleeding. After 22 days in the hospital, including a week in ICU and four weeks of inpatient pediatric therapy, she returned home to Mississippi.

Months of physical, occupational and speech therapy are paying off as Laken’s life assumes its new normal. Laken served at Delta State University this summer as an Orientation Leader and was able to walk across the stage to pass her Miss DSU Crown to the next recipient.

Read more: The Bolivar Commercial - Former Miss DSU fights like an OKRAView More: Laken Wilson Photo Slideshow

Laken and her family shared the year’s progress as she healed with her doctors at Denver Health. Read their story below, in the words of Laken’s mom, and remember to hold your children close and count your blessings.

 

Fall 2012
Dr. Beauchamp,
I wanted to share something with you that Laken told me on Saturday - I think it will make you feel good. Laken is a student at a small university in the Mississippi Delta called Delta State University. Right before Christmas last year she was selected to be an orientation leader for the summer of 2012. This was one of the things that worried her most when she realized she would not be able to go back to school for the spring semester after her brain surgery. Of course, at that point we were just hoping she would get to go back to school ever.

Well, being a small school, when she came back to Mississippi the advisor called and said she would still like for Laken to participate as much as she was able to even though she was not in school that semester. Laken did participate, and it was some of the best therapy she had. It kept her somewhat active even when she still couldn't get around too well, and by the summer she was able to do most anything she needed to do, and she was able to share her story with the new students coming in and let them know how supportive Delta State had been when she was hurt.

Well, it is time for them to choose orientation leaders again, and Praise the Lord, Laken was able to apply again. They go before a selection committee where they are asked a lot of questions to determine who is best suited to be a leader. Laken was asked who, other than her parents or grandparents, she would say was her hero. She said she thought for a little while, and when she answered she told them her hero would have to be her surgeon. She said you had the skill to save her life and to be a busy, successful surgeon, and to also take care of seven children at home.

We watched the video on the Denver Health Facebook page where you were talking about your children having whooping cough. We are praying that all is well for your family now. I watched with tears streaming and sent it to Laken. She was very touched, and my mom said, "I love that lady. I wanted to reach right through that screen and hug her." We are well aware that it is because of the skill of you and your surgical team, some excellent doctors and nurses, and the grace of God that Laken is still with us today and has experienced a near complete recovery. Anyway, I thought you would like to know that you are a hero.
 
Sincerely,
Mechelle Wilson


Summer 2012
Dr. Beauchamp,
Thank you so much for your interest in Laken and her case. We are so grateful for the work of you and your staff.  When Dr. Bell called that night, our response was “do what you have to do”, and thankfully you did. The wisdom and skill of your surgical team and the prayers of many, many people are no doubt the reason Laken is still with us today. She is a walking miracle.

While she is still not 100%, we are so grateful that she has come as far as she has in such a short time. We are still praying that with time she will continue to improve and get back the fine motor skills in her right hand that she still struggles with and that her speech will continue to improve.

I have attached a few photos for you to show her progress. Laken was the reigning Miss Delta State University at the time of her accident. The first photo is a photo taken at a Christmas Parade a couple of weeks prior to her accident. There is the only photo I took while she was in SICU. We did not want to do anything that upset her in the least and made those monitors go crazy. I snuck this one while she was sleeping to send to family back home because they were anxious not being able to see her.  

There is one from the pediatric floor and one on the rehab floor at Denver Health. We returned home in time for her to pass on her crown to the new Miss DSU in February. This was a very emotional time. Laken was able to walk across the stage with assistance, but she could not wear her crown due to her scars and she could not speak to give her farewell speech. In March she was able to put on real clothes and makeup for the first time since Jan. 1. For Laken this was a big day. There is a picture of her in June 2012. She was happy to be a little more independent again. The doctor had cleared her to drive and she was getting to take a few short trips on her own.

The last photo was taken in August on the day she moved into her dorm room. She is happy to be back on campus and Delta State has been very supportive of her situation and any special needs she may encounter and we are only 20 minutes if she needs us. On the night of January 1, 2012 we were 20 hours away.  Only time will tell how well she will be able to proceed with her education, but she is determined to be well and not to be seen as handicapped. She will keep pushing. We praise the Lord every day for placing her in very capable hand and for the progress she has made. Our experience at Denver Health was a very good one considering the circumstances. Everyone there was so very nice to us and attentive to our situation. They were aware that we were a long way from home and took very good care of us. Thank you.
Mitch and Mechelle Wilson