Shelby Hyatt doesn’t remember anything about March 13, 2018. She doesn’t know what she had for breakfast that morning or what errands she ran or the accident that put her in a coma for 22 days.
“Everybody tells me that I was a passenger in a vehicle that got hit on my side. There is a list of injuries,” Shelby said.
Shelby was airlifted from the scene with extensive injuries including two fractures to the skull, bleeds in her brain, broken neck, broken back, shattered pelvis, ruptured spleen, and many other broken bones and lacerations. According to Shelby’s mother, Missy, Shelby was a 3 on the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS), which is the lowest score. The GCS is the most common scoring system used by physicians to gauge the severity of damage after a traumatic brain injury.
Missy said, “There was not just one injury that could have absolutely taken her life.”
Missy was on vacation at Disney World the day of the accident. She received a call from a close friend of the family who also happened to work for the Forrest County Sheriff’s Office.
She said, “I could tell, as professional as he was being, that he was shaken. He just said, ‘You have to come home now. There’s been an accident.’ That was the call we received, and then I called my sister. She was the first one to the hospital, and I was able to communicate with my sister and the medical staff for the seven and a half hours it took us to drive home.”
On the ride home, Missy was able to stay on speakerphone with Shelby’s physician, Duncan Donald, MD, which allowed her to make decisions about Shelby’s care. After surgery, Shelby was moved to the Intensive Care Unit where she would remain in a coma for the next 22 days.
Missy said, “They kept us upbeat, but they were real. They got down on our level to explain things. I can’t tell you what that means to a family that is facing some horrible circumstances. I can recall being at the nine o’clock visit one Friday night. The ICU staff let me stay a little bit longer than usual, and Dr. Donald walked in at 9:45. He had come in to the ER and decided, when he was done there, that he would come up and check on Shelby. Small things like that let us know that we were constantly being thought about. Her progress was being evaluated, and someone was always thinking about where to go next.”
After Shelby woke up and started working on her rehabilitation, she improved faster than anyone guessed. At five months into her recovery from extensive brain injuries, Shelby can sit up on her own and talk, and she’s already started walking again with assistance.
“Shelby’s injuries were severe and devastating. It took multiple specialists and departments working together to put her on the path to recovery. Although, her injuries were grim, we never gave up on Shelby. Seeing her recover from such serious injuries, makes it all worthwhile,” said Duncan Donald, MD, medical director, Trauma Services.
Recovery from traumatic brain injuries can take up to two years. Shelby continues to improve and has set a new goal of becoming a speech and language pathologist someday.
“She inspires me because I’ve not seen her be negative. Not one time. We didn’t know what we were going to get when she did wake up. But we got Shelby back,” Missy said.
For more information aboutForrest General’s Level II Trauma Center, visit forrestgeneral.com/alwaysready.
Pictured: Shelby Hyatt enjoying time with her three children.