It was just hours after the unthinkable, and as Kailey Ogden looked at her sister Alyssa in the intensive care unit, she said she was left speechless at the sight of her sister in critical condition.
“When I first saw her, I prayed harder than I’ve ever prayed before,” Kailey said. “My heart shattered into pieces. She didn’t look like the same Alyssa I had last seen on Sunday.”
Alyssa, junior in animal sciences and industry at Kansas State, was hit by a car at a campus crosswalk on March 19. She was crossing at the corner of Denison Avenue and Todd Road near Throckmorton Hall.
In the immediate aftermath of the accident, her childhood hopes for a future life as a veterinarian were now just hopes for life itself. She was given a life flight to a Topeka hospital as medical professionals kept her breathing.
Alyssa’s first challenge in recovery was that she needed to start breathing on her own again. A day after the accident, the breathing tubes were removed and Alyssa took her own breaths again.
Next, Alyssa needed to wake up. That took a few more days, Kailey said.
Doctors would “yell and rub her chest really hard to try and get her to wake up, and her brain just wouldn’t allow it,” Kailey said. But through the pain, Alyssa gradually regained consciousness and slowly started to talk.
Now, more than two weeks after the accident, Alyssa is well on her path to recovery at the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska. The breathing tubes are gone, she is walking with assistance and she even played games of Uno and Connect Four with her family.
“She’s got her color back,” Kailey said, but Alyssa is still struggling with language comprehension, simple math and following directions.
“She has her moments of remembering certain things from a day or two ago, but not a lot between 3-13 days back,” Michelle Ogden, Alyssa’s mother, said. “She’s also been working on balance and building her strength back up in her arms and legs. As of right now, she has to wear a gait belt to walk and be accompanied by a nurse.”
Alyssa’s family members said they hope time will heal this cognitive wound. Alyssa’s long-term goal is still to be a veterinarian, but in the short-term, she wants to go home. Although her family explained to her why she was there, Alyssa is still confused why she isn’t home right now.
“We’ve talked about why she is here for the past few days and she’s been very inquisitive about it each day,” Michelle said. “She knows what happened but can’t quite comprehend why. She gets asked multiple times a day her ‘orientation questions,’ which are the date, what city she’s in, where she is, why she’s here, the time, where she goes to school, things like that. She can usually answer those questions with prompts that have been put up around her room and usually knows to look for the prompts.”
Michelle added that seeing Alyssa’s mental condition has been difficult for her.
“For the past three or four days, she’s asked me at some point in the day where her mom is,” Michelle said. “It’s tough to hear her ask that knowing I’ve been here almost 24/7 since her accident, but I understand it’s not her fault. And she does know me most of the time; it’s very random when she asks. She seems to remember most of the rest of the people currently in her life without question: her dad, sisters, boyfriend and his parents. She’s doing really well with most people.”
Right now, Alyssa’s family does not have a timetable for her road to recovery, and they are not even sure if she will ever be back to “100 percent.”
“We have high hopes she will make it to 100 percent, but no guarantees,” Michelle said. “It’s all up to her brain and how much it wants to heal. But I do know it won’t be from a lack of effort on her part or a lack of support.”
“Alyssa is an extremely strong, impulsive and determined woman,” Kailey said. “Once she woke up and came to a little, but she knew that she wanted to get back to her normal, everyday life. She still has a very long ways to go until she’s back to her normal everyday lifestyle, but her determination has really been a key factor in her recovery process.”
The K-State Police Department is still investigating the accident and has not released any information or names in the ongoing case.
At time of publication, a GoFundMe webpage set up by Alyssa’s family to help pay for her medical costs and expenses had raised over $6,110 out of a $10,000 goal.
Kailey said she was taken aback by the support her family has seen in the past two weeks.
“More [support] than we ever knew was possible,” Kailey said. “We can’t even begin to describe how thankful we are to have the people that we do in our lives.”
You can keep up with updates on Alyssa’s recovery or donate at gofundme.com/f/71qk4xk.