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Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Fourth-grader returns home for holidays after brain injury

December 19, 2022

As Christmas music plays at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals, 10-year-old Sammie Tyree is getting in the holiday spirit by dancing during one of her therapy sessions. The fourth grader from Wichita, Kansas, loves Christmas and everything that comes with it.

However, a horrible September accident put this holiday season in doubt. While at a friend’s house, a tree branch fell on Sammie leading to a brain injury and fractures to her skull and back.

“When it first happened, I thought I was going to lose her,” Melissa Tyree, Sammie’s mother, said. “It was very hard. I remember asking the doctor if there was any hope. She said ‘it was hour-by-hour, but there is hope.’”

After being in the ICU at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, Sammie entered Madonna’s Pediatric Specialty Program with the motto ‘Tyree Tough’. When she arrived, Sammie had difficulty moving the left side of her body and needed help sitting up.

“I had never heard of Madonna before,” Melissa said. “One of the doctors mentioned it to me to kind of get my wheels turning in that direction, and then it was like everyone knew about Madonna. It was all, ‘Madonna is the place that you want to be and will help her get better. If there’s anything that she can do, Madonna will get her to be able to do that.’ So I had a lot of peace coming here hearing that.”

With daily physician visits and intensive physical and occupational therapies, Sammie started walking and regaining her upper body strength. She got a confidence boost with the help of the Armeo Power, a robotic arm and hand rehabilitation device that focuses on an individual’s range of motion.

“At first, it really was hard because my arm was so weak,” Sammie said. “It has these grip strengths, and you’re supposed to squeeze on some things, and you have to move your arm.”

While using the Armeo Power, patients can play games on the monitor to make it more interactive and fun.

“It’s so important when working with kids that they’re doing something that they enjoy,” Sarah Economides, one of Sammie’s physical therapists, said. “We really do try to find things that motivate each child and make it fun so they’re not thinking about what’s hard for them.”

Sammie’s mind also got a workout in Madonna’s Therapeutic Learning Center, including daily schoolwork with an educational specialist. In addition to academics, pediatric patients have the opportunity to develop social skills and explore new ways of navigating the classroom.

“I loved that the therapies encompass everything about her,” Melissa said. “Madonna incorporated her schoolwork so she can stay up with her class. They’ve taken the things that she’s loved like volleyball, acting and singing and they’ve incorporated those into her therapies to make it fun for her.”

Now back home for the holidays, Sammie’s success story is one she and her family will forever be grateful for.

“She’s a completely different kid,” Melissa said. “When she came to Madonna, she couldn’t move her left leg and left arm. She was so weak she couldn’t sit up. She got stronger and stronger every day to the point where she’s walking sometimes with no assistive devices. It’s been an amazing transformation.

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