Chase Junck is an active toddler with “personality plus” who loved to run and play. His perfect world toppled on March 19, when the 15-month-old suffered severe injuries that were consistent with shaken baby syndrome at a day care in his hometown of Randolph, Neb.
Left with retinal hemorrhaging, a fractured skull and having suffered a massive stroke, Chase was lifeflighted to Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City, Iowa. “I begged the crew to keep my son alive until we could be with him,” said Chase’s mother, Jill. Having lost half his blood volume, Chase underwent emergency surgery at the hospital to stop the bleeding on his brain. Chase’s father, Scott, said medical personnel gave their son a 10-20 percent chance of survival.
Chase was flown on to Children’s Hospital in Omaha, Neb., where he spent the next three weeks sedated, paralyzed and on a ventilator in the pediatric intensive care unit. His neurosurgeon upgraded the toddler’s survival odds to 50/50. It would be two agonizing weeks before his parents could wrap their loving arms around their son.
Scott and Jill began to contemplate acute rehabilitation for Chase. Jill, a registered nurse, was familiar with Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital. “I was excited after what I learned Madonna could do for patients,” said Jill. On April 10, Chase got an ambulance ride to Madonna’s pediatric unit. Shortly after his arrival, Chase was fitted with a helmet to protect the fragile cranial bone flap surgeons had created.
“When I first met Chase, he couldn’t sit up or roll over,” recalled Madonna physical therapist Laura Corbridge. Together with Chase’s therapy team, Scott and Jill devised physical, occupational, vision and speech goals for their son. Scott shared, “I just wanted to see my son do his normal ‘Chase’ stuff again.” The emphasis in therapy shifted to fun and play time for Chase. Gradually, he began to amaze everyone with his progress. “Chase was soon able to roll over and progressed to sitting and playing with toys,” said Laura.
“As he became more mobile, I spent a lot of time on my knees!” she added with a smile. Laura said he enjoyed using a toy lawn mower in outdoor therapy sessions, adding his own “vroom” sounds.
Madonna’s Child Development Center also provided peer interaction for the pint-sized patient who won over staff with his infectious smile. “Chase loved to laugh and make animal noises,” said occupational therapist Jennifer Slyvan. He wore prism glasses to increase visual tracking skills. “He was always willing to work hard and his smile brightened my day,” Jennifer commented.
Chase benefited from a supportive network of family, friends and Madonna staff. Jill shared that Chase’s personality gradually resurfaced. On April 15, he uttered his first word since the accident “Da-da” and two days later, he was giving people a “high five.” Riding his “Rockin’ Pony” and pushing his popcorn popper became favorite pastimes again.
“I thought my faith was deep before,” said Jill, “but now, I know it can grow. You just have to pray that God will take care of things.” Both Jill and Scott were quick to credit the Madonna staff with Chase’s positive outcomes. “You don’t have to look anywhere else for rehabilitation; just come to Madonna, believe in the staff and it will happen,” said Jill.
On May 25, nearly six weeks after his traumatic injury, Chase Junck was in his car seat, traveling back home to rural Nebraska. He still visits as an outpatient at Madonna and continues to thrive in his recovery.