Like many children, Jayslynn “Jays” Ramirez is counting down the days until Christmas.
“I really like it because I get a lot of presents,” Jays said.
Her mom, Angelica Encinas Leyva, says Jays has always loved this holiday, but this year, the festivities will mean even more. In addition to celebrating Christmas, Jays will be celebrating returning home for the first time since summer.
A car accident in August 2021 left the young teenager with serious brain trauma. She was unable to walk, talk or even breathe on her own. After two weeks at the hospital, Jays came to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals, where she spent nearly four months, retraining her body with hours of daily physical, occupational and speech therapy.
“She’s a fighter and I am so amazed by the progress she’s made from start to finish, and I know she’ll continue to do a lot more,” Leyva said.
When Jays first came to Madonna, success was measured in small victories: weaning from the ventilator with respiratory therapy, a few assisted steps or a whisper. Soon, her progress began to take off. After a few weeks, she was able to walk on her own and order one of her favorite meals—spicy chicken wings and fries from Buffalo Wild Wings.
“It was great to watch her progress because she made so much progress while she was here,” occupational therapy student Bridget Mulhall, who worked with Jays during her time at Madonna, said. “Especially being a student, being able to see the therapy that we were implementing resonate with her right away, and to have her bring that into not just OT, but PT and speech was amazing. We were able to cover so much ground while she was here.”
Madonna’s pediatric care specialists make sure therapy plans are customized for each child, so they can get back to doing what they love. For Jays, this means softball and school. The Therapeutic Learning Center helped her stay on track with her classwork. In physical therapy, she improved her balance and coordination practicing playing catch and running the bases. In occupational therapy, Mulhall incorporated Jays’ love of Christmas.
“It’s important to incorporate things patients love into therapy because then it doesn’t feel like work,” Mulhall said. “She was able to put up all the ornaments while standing, while reaching, hooking every single hook without realizing all the little therapy things she’s doing to make the big thing of putting up the Christmas tree. That’s the cool part about doing things that patients love because you’re able to marry the therapy and what they want to do together, and that way everyone wins.”
For Mulhall, Jays gave her a special present, something she’ll cherish for years to come.
“Her first week here was my first week here and my last week is the week that Jays discharged,” Mulhall said. “It’s always going to be in my heart—Jays and this rotation and Madonna, just being able to see a patient from start to finish. She was with me the entire time so I just feel like we learned a lot from each other. I think I’ll remember Jays into my future career and beyond.”
After a successful brain surgery in December, Jays returned to Madonna to show off her progress, using specialized technology like the Bioness Integrated Technology System to fine-tune her vision, just in time to see what gifts await her under the tree. But, before she unwraps presents, she has two things she wants to do first.
“Say ‘hi’ to my brother and ride my bike,” Jays said.