WAUSA – As Aubrey Morgan fights along a road of recovery from severe injuries she suffered in a car crash, she has a goal of being able to run around like a rambunctious kid again.
The 3-year-old daughter of Aaron and Abbey Morgan of rural Wausa had her life changed forever when she and her family were involved in a two-vehicle collision last November in Norfolk.
Aubrey suffered severe spinal cord injuries in the wreck and was hospitalized several places before finally being able to come home April 28.
A fundraiser for Aubrey and her family will be held at 5 p.m. Aug. 6 at Gladstone Park in Wausa. All of the funds raised by the benefit will go toward medical bills for them.
Abbey noted there simply is not enough money in the world “to pay for this type of event in someone’s life,” noting what happened to Aubrey.
As for all of the support the Morgan family has received, Abbey enthusiastically expressed her gratitude, especially for their really supportive group of relatives and friends.
“We couldn’t be more thankful for all of the help with whatever it is,” Abbey said.
“We are excited for the benefit and for people to see Aubrey again or meet her for the first time,” she said.
Abbey shared how Aubrey keeps fighting every day as her recovery process continues at home.
“Every day, she surprises us with some new movement or something,” Abbey said.
She noted Aubrey can move her arms, hands, legs and feet, but her daughter has to be pushed in a regular pediatric wheelchair to get around.
“She herself has said she is going to not only walk but run and jump,” Abbey said. “Doctors have said, ‘Hopefully.’ There is no prognosis as doctors simply cannot say one way or another.”
Abbey explained Aubrey suffered C2 and C3 vertebrae fractures. The second and third vertebrae are located near the top of the spine in the cervical area, or neck region.
“At this location, it controls the muscle in your diaphragm to breathe,” Abbey said. “Aubrey also had a dislocation at the very top of the spine and spinal tear.”
The spinal tear tore the covering of the spinal cord, causing cerebrospinal fluid to leak out.
This fluid flows in and around the brain and spinal cord to help cushion them from injury and provide nutrients, according to the Mayo Clinic. Abbey noted Aubrey did not undergo
Abbey noted Aubrey did not undergo any operations for her injuries because the fractures have fused together.
“Her body has absorbed the fluid,” Abbey said. “The tear acted as a window and not a door thankfully.” She noted Aubrey is a rare case
She noted Aubrey is a rare case of someone surviving these kinds of injuries.
“It has a 2 percent survival rate,” Abbey said. “At the location of injury, it shut down her breathing. Had it not been for a very special person coming by and giving her CPR, we would not have our Aubrey Rose.”
Abbey explained Aubrey’s case is being followed closely, especially by her pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Afshin Salehi, at the Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha.
“He had never had someone this young – or the data to go off of – while treating Aubrey and her injuries,” Abbey said. “It was a hard, hard decision to make whether to operate or not.”
She recalled the day of the crash that changed her and her family members’ lives forever was a typical one where they traveled to Norfolk one day a week to run errands.
Abbey was traveling in her copper 2014 Ford Explorer with her young children – Aubrey, Liam and Avery – when another vehicle hit hers in the middle of the passenger side at about 3:30 p.m. Nov. 9 in the intersection of Eisenhower Avenue and U.S. Highway 81 on the northern edge of Norfolk.
“All I know is that I was headed east and woke up looking west,” Abbey said. “The kids were OK other than Aubrey and I. I have bulged discs in the exact location Aubrey has fractures.”
Aubrey first was transported to Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk and then airlifted to the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, where she spent 10 days.
She was then taken to the Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, where she was cared for Nov. 19-March 7.
Aubrey’s final hospital stay was at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals’ Lincoln Campus, where she continued to recover March 7-April 28.
While she was staying at Madonna, Aubrey gained more independence in the hospital’s pediatric spinal cord injury program through physical and recreational therapies and her care team’s expertise.
In addition, Aubrey received a present for her third birthday on April 18 – a car she could operate made by Go Baby Go, a national organization that adapts powered toy vehicles for children with disabilities.
Dr. Arash Gonabadi, the assistant research director of the Rehabilitation Engineering Center of Excellence at Madonna, received the Morgan family’s request and modified what would become Aubrey’s ride-on pink car.
“When we receive a request, the research team brainstorms to find the best and fastest way to solve the issue,” Gonabadi said in a story on Madonna’s website.
“I modified the car by putting a button on the car so she could hit the button with her head to move the car forward,” he said. “I also fitted it with a new car seat and additional wheels to provide her with the support and stability she needed while seated in the car and maneuvering through the world.”
And, according to the Madonna story, that is exactly what Aubrey did.
With Abbey close by assisting with a hand-held controller, Aubrey cruised around Madonna’s specialized pediatric unit with her care team cheering her on.
“When I see they are happy, it makes me happy because I can give them a new chapter,” Gonabadi said. “I can at least help them for a short amount of the time.”
Abbey noted her family did not expect Aubrey to receive the car as a birthday gift.
“Her birthday is a good day anyway, but when she saw the car, it brought her so much joy,” Abbey said. “Just knowing she can control it and do something without me doing it for her.”
She explained Aubrey’s car has been helpful for her and it continues to bring her “joy and smiles.”
“Aubrey doesn’t use it a lot in the house as it’s a Power Wheels size, and our house just isn’t that big,” Abbey said.
“She does know exactly how to operate it,” she said. “It works by her pressing a button with the back of her head to drive.”
Aubrey came home to rural Wausa from Madonna on April 28, 10 days after her birthday.
“We were ready, so happy and excited, but full of anxiety and super nervousness,” Abbey said. She explained the changes that have
She explained the changes that have been made to her family’s home to assist Aubrey.
“We added a ramp to the outside to help her get in and out to head to appointments and whatnot,” Abbey said. “As far as inside, we haven’t had to do much at this time.
“We did add a bigger bathtub to accommodate her Rifton bath chair for her to bathe in,” she said. “Aubrey and her wheelchair are relatively small and fit in all of the doorways just fine.”
Since being released from Madonna, Aubrey has continued to perform a range of motion exercises a couple of times a day. They include moving all extremities to keep them from tightening up.
Abbey described how Aubrey’s attitude has come back home.
“We don’t see much frustration from her like we used to in the very beginning,” Abbey said. “It’s more sadness when she sees her siblings playing by her.”
However, she noted Aubrey has kept a positive attitude.
“Aubrey has smiled through the darkest of times,” Abbey said. “Even I couldn’t do that; she is my hero.”
Abbey explained Aubrey’s moods are only really different when she is tired.
“Typical 3-year-old stuff, though,” Abbey said. “She’s dealing with it better than anyone could.”
She noted her and Aaron’s other two children – 2-year-old Liam and 1-year-old Avery, who just celebrated her birthday on Aug. 1 – have not had a hard time adjusting to the changes their family has seen.
“Liam is so gentle and very patient with Aubrey, helping her with her drink, binky, toys and puzzles,” Abbey said. “Avery is too young to really understand at this time.”
For Abbey and Aaron, balancing their attention among their children when only one of them is home at a time is difficult.
“I can’t ever ignore Aubrey for a split second because that’s a matter of life and death,” Abbey said.
“We try to spend as much time with them one on one during the day/evening when Aaron’s off work and home on the weekends,” she said.
Aaron, 32, works on wind turbines for Vestas in the Bloomfield area while Abbey, 26, stays at home with their children. They are both Norfolk natives.
“Aaron did take off as much time as he could to be with us for as long as he could in the hospital,” Abbey said. “Aaron returned back to work in January.”
Abbey noted the Nov. 9 car crash forever changed her and her family members’ lives.
“We now have things nobody should have to struggle with,” Abbey said. “’Life isn’t fair’ is one of the biggest things this has taught me, but we make the best of what we have. We’ve adjusted just by being patient with Aubrey and letting her lead the way.” She explained if she has an activity
She explained if she has an activity planned or scheduled, she just assumes she may not make it.
“When I schedule something or make plans to go do anything, I tell people, ‘It’s ultimately up to Aubrey if I’m there or not,’” Abbey said.
She noted Aaron does a better job than her at keeping a positive attitude about what life has thrown at their family.
“Although it does hurt a lot to see her go through this and not be Aubrey before November 9 of 2021,” Abbey said.
“My heart is full now that we are home and I get to have all of us together, but it stings yet when I look at what daily life looks like for my normal baby girl.”