This story is told by Taylor’s mom Stacy Henningsen.
In September 2011, just two weeks into her freshman year, Taylor Hale suffered a traumatic brain injury while horsing around with friends after a high school football game. She slid off a car hood and hit her head, hard, against pavement. Her incredible trajectory — from being declared brain-dead, according to her family, to now getting ready to go to college — was first documented in the Des Moines Register.
Machines monitored the swelling in Taylor’s brain. A constant stream of family and friends came to see her, but doctors warned visitors they couldn’t talk or make any loud noises that would overstimulate Taylor. About week later, Taylor’s condition got even more serious: She suffered a brain hemorrhage. “Her brain had slipped down into her spinal column … The brain had turned to mush,” Henningsen said. “They had to do CPR and go through extreme lengths to get her back.”
“The following day, [doctors] said, ‘We’re sorry — there’s nothing more we can do for her. You should probably say goodbye,” Henningsen said. “We started talking about funeral arrangements.” Doctors told Taylor’s family they were 95 to 99 percent sure she would never wake up again, Henningsen said.
Declaring her brain-dead, they took her off medications and oxygen. The family prayed. A chiropractor who had been treating Taylor’s great-aunt also prayed for the girl, visiting her hospital room to lay his hand on the back of her neck. “A couple of hours later, the doctor came in and and basically told us, ‘We don’t know how to medically explain this to you, but she’s breathing on her own,'” Henningsen said.
Taylor opened her eyes and moved her fingers and toes. But doctors cautioned the family that chances were slim that she would ever walk again, and that if she did, she would be attached to a feeding tube for life. Through hard work and persistence, Taylor slowly regained the ability to walk, eat, and do nearly everything else she was doing before, her mother said.
On Monday, she will graduate from her high school. She spoke to NBC News in between her final classes at school and a trip to the mall to buy a dress for her graduation party — a day her mother wasn’t sure would ever come for Taylor after her accident. “I think about it quite often,” Hennsingsen said. “It’s definitely a miracle.”
(This is a condensed version of the story that appeared on NBC News.)