The Power of a Thumbs Up
In late May of 2019, the unthinkable happened to the Crittenden family. Six-year-old Elliott, his eight-year-old sister and their father were stopped at a light on Versailles Road when a distracted driver rear ended them at seventy miles per hour. While his father and sister escaped the collision with relatively minor injuries, Elliott’s situation proved much more serious. The high-speed impact left him with a severe traumatic brain injury, numerous skull fractures, a fractured cervical vertebra, and a broken femur. When Elliott arrived at the Makenna David Pediatric Emergency Department, one of just two Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Centers in the state, at Kentucky Children’s Hospital, he was immediately taken into surgery—an emergency craniectomy that involved the removal of a portion of his skull in an attempt to reduce the pressure on his brain.
Finally, Elliott gave the doctors, therapists and nurses the signal that he was ready to be transferred out of the ICU: a thumbs up. “For as long as Elliott had been in the ICU, the doctors and nurses had been working with him to do things like squeeze their fingers or wiggle his toes. The physical therapists were with him one morning and had him propped on the edge of the bed. I had walked down the hall for a moment and I heard cheers erupt from our room. They had asked Elliott to give a thumbs up and he’d finally done it.”
Elliott’s recovery was far from over. The severity of his brain injury led to uncertainty about whether he would ever be able to return to school or have a normal life. As he grew stronger, his medical team was able to remove his feeding tube and get him onto a walker to regain more strength in his legs. Extensive therapy helped Elliott overcome initial challenges with his speech and memory. Following a lengthy stay at Kentucky Children’s Hospital and several weeks of intensive rehab at another hospital, Elliott and his family were able to return home in late July, some two months after the accident.