In Dec. 9 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Editor
No one can be prepared for what happened to the York and Brizendine families on June 5, 2010. Just after 6:30 p.m that evening, emergency personnel responded to a residence on McClendon Ridge Road following a 911 call.
What they found was tragic. Two young girls, 8-year-old Gabby York and 4-year-old Lila "Gracie" Brizendine, had been struck by a vehicle while playing in the yard.
Young Lila was killed in the incident while Gabby was airlifted to Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville with life-threatening injuries.
Now, the York family is turning tragedy into triumph as Gabby, a 4th grader at Salem Elementary, is looking to brighten up the lives of children in similar situations. While Gabby was in the hospital, 3Trees Church in Russell County sent her a prayer blanket. This act of kindness by folks unknown to her touched Gabby's heart.
"The blanket made me feel special," Gabby said.
Gabby and her family have since developed the "Covers of Love" non-profit program. Their goal was to deliver a blanket to each child in Kosairs before Christmas, something they did on Monday.
"I want to make these kids feel special," Gabby said. Gabby's mother, Jamie, said they distributed 220 blankets, with the help of hospital volunteers, to children at Kosairs. The blankets came from a variety of places, including Walmart and Dykes' Fabrics in Bryan, and were purchased with donations given to the family from churches and other folks in the community. Jamie said New Victory Baptist Church, Charity Baptist Church, First Apostolic Church of Russell Springs, the Senior Citizens Center and the Salem Y-Club have all been instrumental in donating or making blankets. Gabby has even helped to make many of the blankets throughout the project, even making so many in one day she developed blisters on her hand.
Jamie, who works at Community Trust Bank, said a flyer advertising the program had been placed in the drive-thru window there as well as other locations around the county. Even teachers at Salem sent home flyers encouraging donations for the project.
"This is something she wants to do every year around Christmas time," Jamie said. "She's doing this in memory of her cousin, Lila."
Jamie said she was hoping the delivering of the blankets would bring some smiles to the children's faces; much like the 3Trees blanket did to Gabby following her accident.
"She couldn't believe that people that didn't even know her would take the time and send her something," Jamie said. "Now she wants to give a little something back to make other little kids feel like she did. It is a sad time up there being stuck in that hospital."
Gabby should know. She was in the hospital for 13 days following the incident, eight of those days being spent in intensive care. She suffered two skull fractures, a broken jaw, hearing loss in one ear, major nerve damage to one of her eyes, a broken femur and a broken collarbone as well as swelling and blood build-up on the brain.
"They said she was a miracle," Jamie said. "She should have died with the injuries she sustained. They were all amazed at her progress and that she went home two weeks later."
Jamie said on the second day in Kosairs, doctors told her that the blood build-up and swelling on Gabby's brain had subsided, something that was truly a miracle and cause for joy among all that knows her.
"Lots of prayers went up for my daughter, lots of prayer chains, too," she said. "It was just the hand of God."
Following several major surgeries, Lila now faces one final surgery in April to remove the rods and screws from her leg.
While at the hospital, Gabby also developed a special bond with her nurse, Yesi, who remains in contact with the family to this day.
"The people up there at the hospital are just unbelievable," Jamie said. "When they first brought Gabby in, the nurse stayed five hours over her shift just to be with her."
Jamie said the community has been great to their family and so caring these last six months.
"The outpouring of love and support with this project has just been phenomenal," she said. "The giving that continues is so special. My customers at the bank always ask how she's doing."
Now that Gabby is back to being an active child, she said she loves draw, shop and play with her dog, Bella. She also enjoys spending time with her siblings, Bill Brown, Rhyan York, Lindsey York and Daniel Ortiz.
She also wrote a personal reflection of her horrific incident at school, something that Chris, Gabby's father, and Jamie have framed and setting in their home. Gabby also made her own Teddy Bear following her stay in the hospital. She calls it her "Lila Bear" in honor of her cousin and keeps it near her at all times.
"The good Lord has got a plan for that child," Chris said of his daughter. "The neurosurgeon wasn't giving her a chance at all … just a miracle."