Kallie Zitek is a bright, active, young girl who loves life. As a toddler, Kallie’s independent spirit was severely tested following a horrific car accident.
On Dec. 6, 2009, Kallie and her family were traveling back to their home in Seward after visiting friends in western Nebraska. Their car hit a truck head-on in a snowstorm. Kallie’s father, Jim, was killed instantly. Her mother, Niki, seven-months-pregnant at the time, escaped serious injury. Kallie, then two years old, sustained a traumatic brain injury during the violent impact. She was stabilized at CHI Health Good Samaritan in Kearney, Nebraska, and then transferred to Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, where doctors placed her in a drug-induced coma.
Days after the accident, Kallie’s massively swelling brain required surgery. The determined toddler inspired her family and friends to adopt the motivational chant“Go, Kallie, go!”
In January 2010, Kallie transferred to Madonna’s Pediatric Specialty Hospital. The youngster was weak, barely moved the left side of her body and couldn’t walk. Therapists introduced E-stim, electrical stimulation, to “wake-up” Kallie’s muscles. Following weeks of repetitive therapies, Kallie gradually moved from pulling herself to a sitting position to standing independently.
Another major hurdle for Kallie was relearning to eat. Kallie’s sense of taste had changed; a common aftereffect of brain injury. “We used different methods of encouragement to help Kallie regain her eating habits, such as tea parties and picnics with other children,” said Jody Macke, RN. On February 22, Princess Kallie wore a tiara and ate a piece of cake to celebrate her third birthday.
Wearing an ankle orthotic greatly increased Kallie’s mobility and balance. March 1 marked a recovery milestone as Kallie became her own cheerleader, chanting “Go, Kallie, go!” and took her first steps.
After ten weeks, Kallie joined her mom and new baby brother, Lucas at home. She continued to soar in the intensive outpatient Rehabilitation Day Program. Aqua therapy, sessions on the treadmill and practicing language skills, prepared Kallie for preschool.
Through the years, Kallie continues to shine. The nine-yearold is starting fourth grade and lives life fully. She struts her stuff in dance, plays softball, basketball and snow skis. In addition to Lucas, Kallie loves playing big sister to little sister Kinley, born after Niki married a special man, Trevor, in 2013.
Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God and Madonna for Kallie’s recovery,” said Niki, who’s excited for her daughter’s future. Go, Kallie, go!