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Posted: 7.23.12
Accident Brings New Appreciation for Life

 By Nancy Hastings

Accident Brings New Appreciation for Life
Though she’s always been a fighter, the car accident Alisha Dell endured and almost died from has given her a new outlook on life and the will to live that serves as an inspiration to others.

Alisha DellAlisha’s accident January 19, on a slick and wintry day, resulted in severe skull fractures, facial fractures and a broken sternum. Her brain swelled and she needed emergency surgery to remove pieces of her skull to reduce pressure on her brainstem. A shunt was eventually used. The ventriculoperitoneal shunting surgery relieved increased pressure inside the skull due to excess cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) on the brain.

Her mother, Tina Rhoades, was later told that it was the fractures sustained during the accident that allowed her brain room to swell, eventually leading to a miraculous recovery.

“Doctors told us that she is a medical miracle and they can’t believe she recovered as she did,” Rhoades said.

First responder emergency medical personnel arrived at the scene on Lake Pleasant Road and transported Alisha swiftly to the emergency room where ER Medical Director Karen Stacey-Erwin, M.D. was working that day.

Stacey-Erwin said it was “an amazing day all around” with a black ice storm that turned a quiet morning into something that was rather significant.

“We had another head injury victim as well as a heart attack that morning, and for a small ER, it was amazing to see the intense teamwork in the hospital to stabilize these individuals,” she said. “None could be shipped expediently and all three were critical.”

She said everyone was so “heavily invested in Alisha” and Borgess would call and give updates. And because she couldn’t be transported right away, they were able to complete the first segment of CT scans and send them to Borgess as they have the same imaging system.

“She’s a reminder of why we do what we do here,” Stacey-Erwin said. “It gives you faith.”

Rhoades felt her daughter, whom she calls “sissy,” was in good hands with hospital staff.

“I felt like Hillsdale’s hospital was small enough that I didn’t feel like a number,” Rhoades said. “There were people I knew there, which helped.”

She said the staff was later amazed at seeing Alisha and progress made since the accident.

“They needed to get a different vision than the one he had of her, even though they try hard not to get attached,” Rhoades said. “The triage nurse, Elsie Hayward, hugged me and couldn’t get over how Alisha had recovered.”

Rhoades said HCHC has worked alongside Dr. Hunter Brumblay at Borgess to learn processes needed in head trauma cases and how to care for those receiving shunts like the one Alisha has.

“Her’s is unique in that it’s adjustable and can turn with the use of a magnet, so we have to be especially cautious and aware if she has an MRI,” Rhoades said.

Rhoades also feels it was the positive vibes and the fact that personnel listened to her when she told them she knew what the daughter she gave birth to was feeling.

“I was at work and I couldn’t breath when I got the call that she was in the accident,” Rhoades said, noting she could feel what was going on with her daughter and alerted staff of her inclinations.

“Once Elsie called my pastor and he came and prayed with me, I knew everything would be okay…I knew God would guide their hands,” she said.

Following an eight and one-half hour surgery at Borgess, the bleeding stopped and family and friends gathered for the 24 hours of critical time to pass. The next five days were difficult to endure as doctors said if Alisha made it through that hurdle, then she would have a chance.

Despite a spike in fever brought on by spinal meningitis, Alisha pulled through with the aid of antibiotics. Once the shunt was put in due to ventricular swelling, Rhoades said her daughter was “like a whole different person.”

After a coma lasting more than a month, her tracheotomy was capped on Valentines Day and Alisha walked 100 steps. From February 22 to March 8, she was at the University of Michigan recovering, and has “flabbergasted doctors” with her speedy recovery.

Though she had to relearn a few techniques like chewing and walking, riding her horse, Misty, seemed to come naturally. Balance was best on her horse where she had formerly trained for speed, English and harness racing.

“My horse is a big part of why I’m where I’m at now,” Alisha said. 

And, she looks on her accident as “a blessing in disguise.

“It’s drawn so many together in my life,” she said. “I have a whole new appreciation for life and for my family.”