Ayla James is home after months in hospital

SPOKANE, Wash. - After more then 3 months in the hospital recovering from brain and spinal injuries, Ayla James is finally coming home from Seattle Children's Hospital. May 3rd was a tragic day for Ayla's family and the family of Gracie Snider. Both 10-year-old girls were in a car crash on I-90 near Ritzville when the car Ayla's dad was driving, rear ended the back of a semi. Gracie was killed. Ayla was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

While she still has some recovering and therapy to do, she has come so far. Initially doctors didn't know what the extent of her brain injuries would be or how she would recover from her spinal injury. Today, though, Ayla is beginning to walk on her own and is speaking.

The community has shown an outpouring of support for both of the James and Snider family these last few months. A beautiful memorial was held at Manito Park for Gracie Snider that at least a thousand people turned out for and over $30,000 has been raised to cover Ayla's medical expenses. Many have followed Ayla's recovery on her caring bridge website: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/aylajames and Facebook page, "Team Ayla:" https://www.facebook.com/teamayla/timeline.

There is also a Facebook page that has been made in honor of Gracie, called "Play for Gracie:" https://www.facebook.com/PlayforGracie?fref=ts.

For those who haven't been following Ayla's progress on Caring Bridge, below are the the first and last post from the page and they show just how far she has come. 

Catching you up... By Lisa Carrington — May 5, 2014 8:55am

"Since this is the first real post we will endeavor to catch you all up to where Ayla is at.

She went into her first surgery in the very early morning hours yesterday. It was focused on repairing the holes in her intestine caused by the seat belt injury. The doctors cut out the bad sections and reconnected everything. She is taking antibiotics to prevent infection. As of last night the prognosis was that this surgery seemed to have worked, infection was not present and it would likely not be the source of more problems for her.

We waited most of yesterday for Ayla to stabilize enough to have an MRI. They did an ICP procedure to help relieve pressure from the swelling in her brain in the early afternoon hours. She finally stabilized and the MRI happened last night around 5pm. There was a team of wonderful doctors who met with Nathan and Janelle for over and hour then provided a detailed update to the family anxiously awaiting it out in the waiting room around 10:00pm last night.

The news was a mix of good things, difficult things, and more unknowns... The MRI focused mainly on her brain to determine the extent of any brain injuries and also her spine to determine the extent of any spine injuries. The type of injury to Ayla's brain is called an axonal shear injury. It is common with this type of trauma we are told. The swelling in her brain is significant. This is likely a big part of the reason she is unable to wake up. The doctors said swelling is at it's worst 72 hours after the accident so they will continue to watch this closely.

She has ligament damage in the ligaments that connect her skull to her spine. The doctors are concerned about this damage. There is bruising in this area of the spinal cord as well. Damage to these ligaments is as serious as damage to the spine. It may require a fusion of her skull to her spine to help stabilize it. Her mid back area is damage free, and for that we are thankful.

She has a lot of damage in the lower back (lumbar area). The bad news is that L4 vertebrae was shattered and will require surgery. The good news is at this time there does not appear to other spinal cord damage in this area. But it is very unstable right now. They will need to do surgery in the next couple days to fuse together that area of her spine to stabilize it and prevent further injury.

We were told that is mostly a waiting game now. The doctors will make Ayla comfortable and it will up to her body to determine when and how much it can heal itself. There is no way of knowing at this time what the impact of her brain or spinal injuries will be. The range we were given was near full recovery to significant physical and neurological disabilities.

Ayla's recovery will be measured in months rather than days. Although the next few days will be very critical as her brain continues to swell and her back surgery is impending. This will be a very, very long road for our family and for Ayla. Thank you for your support.

Nathan, Janelle and Noah are surrounded by their larger than average family at the hospital and at times we can overwhelm them with our good intentions. Giving them another day to adjust would be a good thing before you visit. Each new visit from a loving friend brings a new round of emotion and tears which wears them out.

Your continued thoughts and prayers are the most important thing you can do for our family right now. Thank you all."

Last full day... By Lisa Carrington — 21 hours ago

"Today is Ayla's last full day at Seattle Children's and they have filled it to the brim! She has a full day of therapy and she is finishing up all of her testing in each of the various areas prior to being released.

Her G-tube removal happened at 8:30 this morning and she was a champ! She was a bit nervous so she is happy to have that behind her.

She had neck X-rays yesterday. They said they looked really good but they still aren't quite ready to give us a date on when she stop wearing the cervical collar. She is quite weary of it. It makes movement difficult (for obvious reasons). Today they took X-rays the rest of her spine and look at the area where they put the screws into her lower back 8 weeks ago.

Her walking improves everyday. She has graduated to "stand-by assist" which means no one has to be holding onto her while she walks over the weekend. She is allowed to walk without any assistance as long as someone is close by when she is out. This was a very exciting "graduation" for her. It gives her a feeling of independence. She still sometimes tangles up her feet or gets off balance if there are obstacles in the way so mom and dad stay close by. In her room she graduated to "visual assist" today which gives her even more freedom. She is mastering stairs and working on walking down a slope. As her muscles get stronger she is able to do more and more. She is convinced she could do the splits but has been told repeatedly we aren't quite there yet.

The highlight of the day was definitely her visit from the Seattle Sounders. Sounders players Dylan Remick,Kenny Cooper, David Astrada, and Michael Ariza came to visit Ayla. It was the coolest. When they asked Ayla for advice. She answered pray and look to god, play for grace, and 2 + 7 forever. It was such a powerful moment. She told them to huddle up and they did "1-2-3 Gracie!!" and she made them all kiss and hug Gracie's fox that hasn't left her side since Jay and Gretchen brought it to her. She talked a lot about how much Gracie loved the Sounders. Here are a couple pictures from the visit. They made a truly special memory for all of us. Thank you Seattle Sounders!"