Slowly and deliberately, 3-year-old Ashlyn reaches down to her socks. She pulls them off, one by one, and throws them over the side of her hospital bed. Now she’s ready for naptime.
Ashlyn’s seemingly simple action moves her mother, Amanda Stombaugh, to tears. At that moment, she knows her little girl isn’t lost. “Before the accident, Ashlyn always removed her socks before naptime or bedtime,” she says. “That’s her personality—it’s part of who she is.”
Twelve days earlier, in April 2015, Ashlyn had been critically injured when a dump truck hit her family’s car. Her brother, Noah, experienced a concussion, sprained ankle and minor contusion. Her father, Luke Stombaugh, sustained fractured ribs and a badly broken arm.
All three family members were rushed by ambulance to Regions Hospital. Due to the extent of her injuries, Ashlyn was treated by specialists at the Level I Pediatric Trauma Center, which Regions operates in partnership with Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. Her father was treated at Regions’ Level I Adult Trauma Center. Because the hospitals share the same campus, the two remained as close to one another as possible.
Doctors in the Gillette Pediatric Intensive Care Unit quickly discovered severe swelling, bruising and bleeding in Ashlyn’s brain. She also had skull fractures and broken bones. “We were so worried that maybe there would be permanent damage, that maybe she would be different,” recalls Amanda Stombaugh.
To her family’s joy, pulling off her socks became the first of many feats Ashlyn would achieve. Intense physical, occupational and speech therapy helped Ashlyn regain strength and mobility. Her personality, which her family describes as “fierce,” began to reemerge.
During Ashlyn’s inpatient stay, her mother—who was nine months pregnant at the time of her family’s accident—gave birth to a baby girl at the Regions Hospital Birth Center. She named the baby Lucinda, a name shared by the Gillette critical care nurse who supported their family most.
Seven weeks after the accident, Ashlyn had progressed enough to return home. Today she is enjoying dance class and looking forward to her first recital—she missed last year’s because of the accident. She still deals with damaged hearing and eyesight, and wears a pink helmet to prevent further injury to her fragile brain.
“You would think Gillette would be a place of trauma after what we went through, but for me it's been quite the opposite,” says Amanda Stombaugh. “Everyone we encountered there made us feel safe, cared for and supported. It feels like home now.”