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COLORADO SPRINGS – In this season of gift-giving, one Colorado Springs teenager and her family are celebrating the gift of continued life. Last summer, Jasmine Porr made a bad decision that nearly ended her life.
When I spoke with Jasmine, she told me she learned a valuable lesson. “It’s all fun and games and you may not think you care until you actually do get hurt.”
To understand how far Jasmine has come in just five months, you have to understand how close she was to dying.
Dr. Paul Reckard is a trauma surgeon at UCHealth Memorial Hospital and was one of many specialists to care for her. “Her head injury was very severe and I wasn’t optimistic at the time.”
The night that landed Jasmine in the hospital began when she decided to take her dad’s car without telling him to do some joyriding with friends. Jasmine explains, “I wasn’t being the smartest teenager. I had a couple of friends with me and we decided to go driving my friend and I went to the back of the car, (and sat on the trunk) and another friend pushed the gas. My other friend on the truck fell off, and I flipped over. My other friend only got a minor concussion.”
Jasmine’s injury was far more serious: She suffered a traumatic brain injury, also known as a TBI. Unconscious and having seizures, she was eventually rushed to UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central, a Level 1 Trauma Center.
Michael Porr, Jasmine’s father, recalls getting the news. “I got a call from Jasmine’s mother that she was taken by ambulance to the hospital. I didn’t really know at that point what happened. I went to get in my car to go to the hospital, but Jasmine had taken my car so I had to make other arrangements.”
Upon arrival, Jasmine was quickly admitted to the intensive care unit. Dr. John McVicker, a surgeon and the Medical Director of Neurosciences for UCHealth Memorial, knew life-saving steps needed to be taken quickly.
Dr. McVicker says, “I saw her CT scans and was quite concerned about the degree of pressure that she had in the back part of her head. The brain doesn’t like being compressed and it really doesn’t like being compressed for a long period of time. It can be a fatal injury.”
Dr. Reckard recalls, “Shortly after she got to the ICU, because of the pressure on her brain, her heart stopped and my partner Dr. Valentino resuscitated her.”
With her heart beating again and Jasmine stabilized came the next challenge. Dr. McVicker delivered the tough news to Jasmine’s family.
Michael says, “He did say he had to be honest, that there was a possibility that Jasmine could die in surgery. The hardest part was sitting in the waiting room for four-and-a-half hours not knowing. It felt like an eternity.”
Finally, word came from the operating room that the surgery was a success. However, within 24 hours there was more swelling in Jasmine’s brain. She coded again and had to be brought back to life and was rushed back into surgery.
Dr. McVicker explains, “To help relieve the pressure (on the brain) we do a very large operation, though it’s a simple operation. We simply take a large section of the skull over the area that is swelling off and put it in a tissue freezer to preserve it. The brain is then allowed to expand through the opening in the skull and that can save a person’s life.”
Michael Porr says that then began a very difficult period of waiting and watching. “For the next several weeks it was up and down. Jasmine wasn’t responding much on her own. She was swollen from the surgery and the trauma. There were tubes and hoses everywhere. It was very difficult to watch.”
Slowly, patience and the medical care she received began to pay off. Michael remembers, “She slowly started to make progress – move her arm, or wiggle her toes. I didn’t know what she could do, or if she would ever talk again or walk again. One day I bought a laptop with a blank word document just to see if she knew what it was. She typed, ‘I am so sorry dad’, and that just broke me to pieces.”
But the communication renewed the hope for Jasmine’s recovery. Then Michael says a real miracle happened. “Her tracheostomy tube was looking better and better. It eventually got to a point it had a splicer on it, and they said to give it a week or so and we will see if she can get some words out and talk again. I think within five minutes I said, “What’s your name?,’ and she said, ‘Jasmine’ in a very raspy voice.”
Jasmine has no memory of these events that brought so much hope to her family and friends. “I don’t remember anything until rehab when I was fully conscious.”
Her family and those who cared for her look back and see two forces at work. Michael says, “We thank God every day for the progress she is making; Jasmine does too. It’s a true miracle.”
Dr. Reckard says, “I think we had some help on this one, with the severity of her head injury even in young people, to make this kind of recovery is nothing short of miraculous.”
Dr. McVicker says, “Being young helps, and when a person is close enough to a trauma center that they can undergo definitive care quickly, then there is a chance.”
“Dr. McVicker, that is my hero. He has done nothing but good to me, he saved my life,” says Jasmine.
While Jasmine has a particularly close relationship with Dr. McVicker that shows every time they are together, she loves and appreciates everyone who cared for her.
Dr. McVicker says, “It was a delight to see her back in my office looking so wonderful because the thing you can tell that is most special about Jasmine, is Jasmine.”
This year Christmas will be a special one for Jasmine and her family as well as those who cared for her. Michael says, “I think the holidays will be extra special just knowing Jasmine is part of it.”
As for Jasmine, she is not only grateful to be alive, she has a new outlook on the holidays and really every day. “I get to live in the present and see Christmas, and to see a turkey on the table. Those are the little things I’m thankful for.”
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