Hear Annika's story,
as featured on KS95 For Kids.
Before the May 2008 tornado that changed her family forever, Annika was a joyous and happy little girl who loved princesses, ballet, dancing with her parents, Christy and Jerry, and playing with her little brother, Nate.
"The tornado sirens sounded, then stopped. I looked out the window to see the wind change direction by 180 degrees, which I thought was quite odd," says Jerry. "Then I saw debris swirling toward the house and realized something was horribly wrong."
Tragedy in an Instant
The tornado struck the family's house directly, pinning them under debris. Neighbors arrived and freed Annika, then began resuscitating her. But because she had been without oxygen for some time, she sustained an anoxic brain injury. An anoxic injury occurs when the entire brain - not just one specific area - is damaged. Two-year-old Nate died from his injuries.
Annika was taken to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) of Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare. She spent weeks in critical condition, while doctors worked to relieve swelling in her brain and prevent additional damage. She then spent nearly three months undergoing intense rehabilitation therapy at Gillette before coming home in mid-August.
"The Gillette team took wonderful care of Annika - and took care of us, too," says Christy. "They encouraged us to keep challenging Annika, to keep expecting a lot from her. We believe that's a major reason she's continued to improve."
Getting Better, One Baby Step at a Time
Today Annika attends kindergarten and has begun, very slowly, to become the bubbly child who, according to her parents, was "always in motion." She responds to knock-knock jokes and favorite songs with laughter, and recently said her first word since the accident. Though she isn't quite ready for dancing, Christy and Jerry hope that, someday, that too will be possible.
"She still has major hurdles to overcome," says Jerry. "But we know that she's happy, she enjoys life, and she wants to run and play like other kids. We're going to help her get there."
"Everyone at Gillette is so dedicated to and passionate about their work," says Christy. "We wanted to share our story with KS95 for Kids so everyone knows what a great place Gillette is for children like Annika."