County teenager returns to Vevay more than three months after serious auto accident

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On Monday afternoon, August 4th, Switzerland County High School senior Laci Daugherty left home for a golf match. Just over three months later, she returned home after surviving a auto accident on State Road 156 near Plum Creek Road that August afternoon.

Airlifted to University Hospital in Cincinnati and then transferred to Children’s Hospital there, she has now recovered to the point that doctors sent her home to continue her recuperation under the care of her parents, Rick and Debi Daugherty, brother Zack, and hundreds of members of her “community family”.

“I just don’t know what to say, “Rick Daugherty said Wednesday morning as his daughter rested down the hallway of their Market Street home. “I can’t tell you what the people of this county and people all over have meant to us. You couldn’t pay me enough to get us to leave this town. Everybody has been wonderful.”

The homecoming occurred at about 8:45 p.m. Tuesday night, when the wheelchair-accessible van pulled into the driveway. The family had asked the community to give them a little time to get settled, but their arrival was greeted by pink ribbons tied around trees and signs; posters with well wishes and greetings around their home; and balloons adding to the celebration.

“There were about 20 people here when we got home, mainly family and some friends,” Rick Daugherty said. “And Michael (Lovern, Laci’s boyfriend) came from Rising Sun after he got out of basketball practice. There was no way he was missing that.”

THE LAST DAY

Rick Daugherty said that Laci’s last day at Children’s Hospital was a busy one. Doctors and therapists who have been working with her wanted to get as much done as possible before they discharged her, and a full day of therapy was completed at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

“One medication that she is on is a shot that she takes twice a day,” Rick Daugherty said. “They had hoped to get her off of that by the time she left, but the guy who had to make that call was in surgery and they couldn’t talk to him. They finally gave up on that later in the day.”

Anyone who’s had to fill out paperwork to leave a hospital after something minor can only imagine the amount of paperwork that Rick and Debi Daugherty had to fill out on Tuesday to bring Laci home. All of that finally ended at about 8 p.m. last night, and the family loaded up for the trip to Vevay.

“She had 14 prescriptions,” Rick Daugherty laughed. “That’s almost one for every year old she is.”

Not settled in, but “settling”, Rick Daugherty said that Laci was happy to be home and was getting a lot of rest.

Although she hasn’t regained her ability to talk, Rick and Debi Daugherty said that their daughter left no doubt that she was ready to come home.

“She was very excited to come home,” Rick Daugherty said. “It was really fascinating to watch. She knew what we were doing. We ask her ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions, and if the answer is ‘yes’, she lifts her left hand.

“When we asked her if she was ready to go home, she lifted her hand. She was ready to go at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.”

Rick Daugherty also said that Tuesday was the first day that Laci was able to respond to a command with sound. He said that the speech therapist said that it shows that Laci is “finding her voice again”, and that she is progressing in relearning how to talk.

“She can understand you when you talk to her, but she can’t talk to you because she hasn’t yet remembered how to make herself make sound,” Rick Daugherty said. “My guess is she’ll pick that up (talking) – because she was very good at that before the accident.”

BACK AT HOME

While the Daughertys have been staying with Laci in Cincinnati and living at the Ronald McDonald House there, workers here have been busy getting the family home ready for Laci’s arrival.

A new wheelchair ramp is being installed to the front door; and a special shower has been installed that is wheelchair accessible.

Other provisions have been made to make the adjustment to life in Vevay as easy as possible.

At Children’s, Rick Daugherty said that Laci’s day of therapy began at 7:30 a.m. and ran until 4:30 p.m. with an hour-long lunch break.

It won’t be that extensive now that she’s home, but Debi Daugherty will take her daughter to Madison for therapy twice a week; and therapists at Children’s Hospital also videotaped their therapy sessions so that the Daughertys can do additional therapy with Laci on days that she’s not in Madison.

Her therapies in Madison will involve occupational therapy; physical therapy; and speech therapy.

As for home, Rick Daugherty says that there isn’t a need for home health to come in because his wife has that all under control.

“Deb’s been fantastic and learning all of this stuff,” he said. “She’s been taking care of Laci throughout the day for the past month. The nurses bring in medicine, and Deb gives it to her. The only time Deb’s not taking care of Laci is when we’re back at the Ronald McDonald House during the night. She’s had three months of intensive nurse’s training, and the nurses and Children’s said that she knows how to handle everything.”

There are some things that need to be attended to. Along with the medications, Laci still has a feeding port, called a “Mickey”, in her abdomen that she is fed through. The family is also waiting on the arrival of a special wheelchair that is being specifically designed for Laci’s needs, but everything is manageable at this point.

One major area that will need to be addressed is a pending surgery to replace the two bilateral skull flaps, one from each side of her skull, that were removed when she experienced brain swelling.

The two pieces were saved and frozen so that they could be put back in, and the family had hoped that the surgery would be done before Laci came home.

“We think that the doctor who took them out should put them back in,” Rick Daugherty said. “At Children’s they told Deb and me that it would be about six months before they put them back in, but I think the doctor who did it would have put them back in before she came home, but he is at a conference.”

The Daughertys will now meet with that doctor next Thursday to look at a schedule as to when the pieces can be put back in and how long Laci’s recovery period will be.

Until that time, Laci wears a special protective helmet when she is not in bed.

TIME TO REST

Rick and Debi Daugherty are keenly aware of the Switzerland County community’s interest in the recovery of their daughter, and they deeply appreciate all that has been done to this point.

With Laci now home, the family is taking some time to get her settled into a routine, and is asking that everyone give them some time to do that. They are asking that everyone try and limit their visits to the house until a time when Laci has readjusted to being at home; and also that anyone who may be sick to also please refrain from coming by.

“For the next few weeks we would really like to try and limit home visits,” Rick Daugherty said. “It’s hard because we know how much everyone cares about Laci, but we are working to get her immunities back up, so we’re trying to limit contact as much as possible. I would encourage anyone with a sniffle or a cold or something like that to just call and say hello and not come by until she’s stronger.”

Rick Daugherty said that the family was told that sleep and rest were the best things to aid in Laci’s recovery, so they are trying to allow her to rest as much as possible between therapy sessions and visits.

He said that he will continue to keep people posted on the Caring Bridge website, which has had over 71,000 visits in the past three months.

THANKS TO ALL

How do you say thank you to all of the people who have done so much?

It’s simply overwhelming.

“When we think about the hospital staff both at University and at Children’s, you just can’t describe it,” Rick Daugherty said. “Especially at Children’s. They were just fantastic. I can’t tell you how good they were with Laci. They were off the charts. And therapists who worked with Laci at University would come over and visit her at Children’s. It shows just how much everyone took the time to care for her and how they developed a relationship with her.”

He also said that people in the Switzerland County community with nursing degrees and nursing backgrounds have been great about offering their help and time; and the entire community has also come to the support of the family.

“We just need to thank everybody, it’s so overwhelming the support that we have received,” Rick Daugherty said. “This whole process has been the most difficult part of our lives. Our family and our friends and members of the community have just been fantastic. There are not enough ways to say thanks for all that’s been done for us.”