On May 27th, Aaliyah Campos was on her way to work when her life changed in an instant. A car accident left the 19-year-old from Kearney, Missouri, with severe injuries. After emergency surgery at Liberty Hospital in Kansas City, she remained in the ICU where her family got more bad news. Aaliyah had fat embolism syndrome (FES), a life-threatening condition where a piece of intravascular fat can block blood flow to any part of the body. In Aaliyah’s case, the fat emboli occurred in her brain and caused a stroke.
“It was hard; it was really hard,” Heather Billings, Aaliyah’s mother recalled. “I just prayed that God would guide me to let me know what I needed to do, and I said, ‘If you want to take her, please take her, but I’m going to fight right next to her.”
Heather’s prayers were soon answered.
“A few days later, she started opening her eyes,” she said. “After that, it was just small progress. Then I talked to Elizabeth White, a nurse liaison at Madonna, and she believed in Aaliyah’s recovery too. Now we are at Madonna, where miracles happen.”
At first, it was small victories in Madonna’s comprehensive stroke rehabilitation program. But after a few weeks, Aaliyah was on track for a great recovery. She worked sometimes up to five or six hours of therapy a day.
“Aaliyah was one of those patients that always brought a smile to everyone’s face, just to see her progress each day was amazing,” Nicole Ford, her physical therapist, said. “Everyone would make the comment, ‘holy cow, I can’t believe how great she’s doing,’ and it’s so true. Every day she got better and better; she is exactly why I do what I do.”
Balancing between physical, occupational and speech therapies, Aaliyah soon started walking and talking. Aaliyah also worked on the Proprio, a balance training machine, to help with her range of motion.
“You can increase the speed and increase the angle so you can build that confidence,” Ford said. “I was able to turn the speed and angle clear up, and she maintained her balance without assistance.”
Aaliyah loved to take on each challenge or new goal her Madonna care team gave her. That attitude, along with the help of an inspirational team of health care professionals, made all the difference, according to Heather.
“I think believing in their patients and loving what they do has impacted Aaliyah’s life majorly,” Heather said. “They had the confidence in her as a patient. They’re truly able to perform miracles. They really care about what they do, and they love their patients.”