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Gina Brown is home.
February 27, 2009 could not come fast enough for the Glencoe mother of three who was finally able to spend the night with her family under one roof.
“I’m so excited,” she said, as the white van from Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Florence brought her home, one year to the day of an accident that nearly claimed her life.
Brown, an advertising representative for the Grant County News, was driving south on U.S. 25 around 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008. She rounded the bend near the intersection of Sherman-Mount Zion Road and a delivery truck slammed into her mid-size gray sedan.
The driver’s side of Brown’s 2003 Hyundai Elantra crumpled, pinning her inside.
The day was cloudy with spitting snow limiting visibility. No emergency helicopters could fly, so her broken and bruised body was taken by ambulance to University Hospital in Cincinnati.
She spent the next few weeks in intensive care suffering from massive head trauma; the left side of her body unable to move.
Her husband, Scott, her mother and siblings took turns staying with her, willing her to regain consciousness.
Days turned to weeks and Brown, 38, was eventually moved to Drake Hospital and finally to Gateway. It wasn’t until October 2008 that she woke up.
The petite brunette struggled to remember everything, at times even her husband and children.
The staff at Gateway pushed her and when she got tired they pushed some more, but the hard work paid off and Brown was able to leave the facility for good last week.
“Are you going to miss us?” asked Michelle Michels, a physical therapist at Gateway.
“Yes,” Gina answered.
“What are we going to do without you?” Michels asked.
“I don’t know,” Brown answered.
Staff members, many of them off duty, bid Brown farewell on Feb. 27. During her going away party, they gave her a scrapbook to commemorate her time at Gateway.
Many found it hard to leave the woman they’d grown to love in the 10 months she spent in their care. There were lots of tears and hugs.
But Brown was ready to go. In fact, the day before, the staff caught her attempting to get on the elevator in her new motorized wheelchair.
The ride in the Gateway van to her new Independence home that she’d only seen in photographs took too long. Gina had gotten up early Friday morning and dressed herself in a festive outfit. Her purple high-top tennis shoes stood out against her bright pink pants. She was excited and anxious to see her home and her family.
“Whose house is this?” she asked as Scott pushed her up the driveway.
“It’s too much,” she said, glancing at her new surroundings.
Before the wreck, the Browns were living their dream. They had bought 14 acres on the Grant/Gallatin County line and built their ranch home. Scott had a pole barn/shop. Gina was busy working and being involved with the children.
But all that changed after the wreck when Glencoe was too far from the hospital and too far from family in Northern Kentucky.
“We wanted to stay in Grant County, that place was our goal and we did it. We can say that,” Scott said. “One day we might even do it again.”
The Browns now have to sell their dream.
It’s time for a new chapter. Gina’s road to the new home in Independence that is better suited to a wheelchair has been a long one.
There were surgeries and complications. There were baby steps of progress and set backs.
“There are days I thought why us and why me,” said Scott, a soft-spoken man who works third shift for UPS.
Following the wreck, Scott was tossed into the role of mother/father, carpooler, Scout ‘mom’ and breadwinner on top of having to digest each bit of information about his wife’s condition and her odds of recovery.
“It was hard,” he said simply. “Aside from dealing with her injuries, I guess the other hard part was learning to let other people help you. To let strangers that you really only knew from seeing at ballgames to get your kids to ball practice because you needed them.”
Scott is quick to credit family for filling the gap.
As he spoke with tears in his eyes, his mother, Geri Abrams, and Gina’s mother, Vicki Fetcher, stood in the middle of the kitchen at an island comparing calendars, working on a schedule for allergy shots, bowling practice and helping out at home.
“Her side, my side. It’s all family and I couldn’t have done this without them,” Scott said. “I never imagined that the community, strangers, would stop and pray for us and bring us meals. I just don’t even know how to thank all the people for all they did, but from the bottom of my heart I appreciate everyone and everything they did for my family.”
After the wreck, friends and family organized two benefits to help the family with living expenses.
Scott is determined that the last year won’t be lost, not for Gina and not for his children.
The last year has been preserved in plastic bags containing hundreds of get well cards, school report cards, drawings from the kids and newspaper clippings. When she’s ready, Scott said his plan is to help her go through them so that she didn’t lose a year.
Gina will require 24-hour care from nurses. Her motorized wheelchair will give her mobility but she needs help getting in and out of the chair. The Browns home will also be home to a small army of nurses, therapists and care givers.
But for the Browns, a prayer was answered and a miracle granted.
“Her memory comes and goes, but she’s home,” said Scott. “Sometimes a thought or familiar face will trigger something, but she’s come so far.”
The Brown brood, Scotty, Maggie and Sammy, romp through the new house.
They grab the sofa and turn it on its side.
“Put that down,” Gina says soft but firm.
“She’s learning to correct them again,” Scott said smiling.
It’s been a year of change for all of them. Scotty and Maggie now go to new schools in Kenton County. Sammy is enrolled in preschool.
“It’s been an adjustment but they’re adapting,” Scott said.
The uphill battles will still come.
Gina hasn’t walked since the accident, but doctors have told Scott there’s no reason she couldn’t if her brain injury allows her to.
“We don’t know how much more she’ll improve or how far she can go, but they told us that the biggest amount of improvement comes within the first year of a traumatic head injury,” Scott said.
She moves the left side of her body very little. A pump helps her with muscle spasms and dispensing pain medication. Every day, she takes more than two dozen prescriptions.
“There were days I thought that we’d never get to this point,” Scott said. “But I’d look at the kids and I’d think about what Gina was going through and it would keep me going.”
Scott has spent a lot of time thinking during this last year.
“It’s obvious to say don’t take things for granted, but people need to have a close relationship with their spouse and with both sides of the family,” he said. “Couples need to be involved in every day things like balancing the checkbook and being a part of going to the grocery store and knowing each other’s friends.”
“It’s the little things, like being under one roof, that are important,” he said.
Gina smiled at Scott from a snugly spot in her motorized lift chair in front of a crackling fire on March 2 at her new home.
“It’s good to be home,” she said. “It’s good to be home.”