Tonganoxie teen making a comeback
Hard work after accident paying off for 2005 graduate
Shadoe Barton has a new look at life.
The Tonganoxie teenager was critically injured Feb. 23 during a car accident on U.S. Highway 24-40 near Reno. After the accident, she spent about six weeks in intensive care and a month at a rehab hospital.
She returned last Wednesday to live at her parents' Tonganoxie home.
"Don't take advantage of your every day life," Shadoe said Monday. "The little conveniences that we have, like just walking and being able to put on your socks and tie your shoes -- things like that -- things that are challenging for me now that I never thought about before."
And, she has a new understanding of what it takes to show determination.
"You definitely have to just tell yourself that you just have to do it," Shadoe said. "Like I had no other choice except to get better. Not being able to walk or use my arms the rest of my life -- that wasn't an option for me."
In looking back at her life before the accident, Shadoe said she was "kind of whiney."
That's not the case now, she said.
"Try not to let the little things bother you," Shadoe said. "Like don't complain about the things that don't matter because it could be worse -- so don't whine about the little stuff."
Her first words
Shadoe Barton remembers waking up in ICU.
It was April 2, her great-grandmother's 84th birthday. And Shadoe's great-grandmother and grandmother were visiting Shadoe in the hospital.
Shadoe said she remembers thinking that, at 84, her great-grandmother was ancient. And, when Shadoe's sister joined them, Shadoe eagerly relayed that message to her sister.
"That's the first thing I remember," Shadoe said with a grin Monday, shaking her head as she recalled the moment.
For Shadoe, her thought -- and the ability to convey it -- was a landmark. It was her first conversation in more than six weeks.
Shadoe, a Kansas University freshman majoring in women's studies, always had been articulate, said her mother, Twen Barton.
But injuries sustained in the car accident had dissected her carotid arteries, which led to mini strokes in her brain.
That April 2 conversation gave hope that the former high school debater and thespian would return to being her former self.
In the intensive care unit of Kansas University Hospital, drugs kept Shadoe heavily sedated for about a month. Throughout that time, family members knew that when Shadoe awoke, she likely would have to relearn how to walk and talk.
Since then, the 2005 THS graduate has made amazing strides, her mother said.
Monday afternoon, Shadoe walked along a downtown Tonganoxie sidewalk, steadying herself with a walker.
Her every move is gentle now -- cautious as she backs toward a chair and reaches for the arms to steady herself, or careful as she sinks into the front seat of her mother's car.
Her days are starting to get busier. Along with doctor appointments, there are trips to Lawrence for physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.
But that's all a part of the plan for the young lady who's working to get back to her life.
In rehab, Shadoe pushed herself.
"Every day I had to walk around. I knew I had to do more than I did yesterday and that ... if I don't I'm not going to progress, I'm going to be stagnant for the rest of my life," Shadoe said, pausing as she briefly closed her eyes. "I'm not going to do that."
Because of her progress, Shadoe was able to come home earlier than expected.
And home is good, she said.
"In a hospital you can't really tell what the weather is like outside and everything you're doing is inside this little box and you can't see your family and it's just not very pleasant," Shadoe said. "At home, I'm constantly surrounded by family members and I can go outside whenever I want. Sunshine always makes you feel better."
There is still pain from the car accident. Bruises still line her left arm. But Shadoe isn't complaining.
"I feel great," Shadoe said. "As compared to how I was doing, I'm feeling so much better. It's still challenging, but if it was easy then, there wouldn't be any point."
These days, there's plenty of things for Shadoe to be happy about.
For instance -- home-cooked food.
And she's happy to be regaining her language skills.
"I started out reading single words when I was in my speech therapy and just doing tiny sentences," Shadoe said. "I've come a long way."
This is progress that her family didn't know if they ever would see. In the weeks after the accident, Shadoe's prognosis was grim, her mother said.
"To be very honest, we didn't expect Shadoe to be the same person that she used to be and is now," Twen said. "We expected her to be different somehow, whether it be her personality or cognitive."
During the critical weeks in the hospital, Twen said, the family thoughtfully worded their prayers.
"That was probably our biggest fear -- that she would live but wouldn't have a good quality of life," Twen said. "So we were very careful in how we prayed. We didn't pray for Shadoe to live -- we didn't want to be selfish -- we just wanted what was in her best interest."
And now it appears a life lived fully is in Shadoe's future. Shadoe said she plans, as soon as she's able, to return to classes at Kansas University.
And in the meantime, there's time to play, along with Shadoe's rigorous therapy.
Scrabble is popular at the Barton household.
"You've gotta make sure you have your Scrabble dictionary, though, in case somebody tries to pull one over on you," Shadoe said.
And, then there are video games.
"Nintendo, that was really hard because of my thumb," Shadoe said in exaggeration as she wiggled her thumb. "This is homework for me, gotta play Nintendo to help my thumb, you know, hours upon hours a day, I have to work on it."
Sense of humor
Along with her walking and talking, it's Shadoe's dry sense of humor her family is glad to see.
"I think her sense of humor will, I hope, get her through this," Twen said.
Though Shadoe walks with a walker now, she's hoping within a month to progress to using a cane, and then, to no assistance.
Though early on, the therapy seemed overwhelming, that's no longer the case. "I know that I'm doing so much better," Shadoe said. "It's only a matter of time because I'm already getting out and doing things by myself, getting more and more normal."
That's not something her doctors would have predicted in February.
Monday afternoon, Twen took Shadoe to a medical appointment.
"The first doctor that came in, he was smiling and he told Shadoe, 'I never expected to come in and see you walking and talking the way you are,'" Twen said.
Twen knows what he meant.
She gazed at her daughter, smiling, and added these words, "She's our miracle child."