6-year-old battles back from crash
Hard work, humor help Lily Griesan and family
One of the hardest-working little girls you'll ever meet lives in Pleasant Valley. Six-year-old Lily Griesan isn't trying to make money or impress anyone. She's just
trying to get her life back.
Before a speeding car knocked her off her bicycle April 19, Lily was an active child who liked to climb trees, according to her mother Jean. Now, from her wheelchair, she asks her mother how people do that sort of thing.
It's not as if there's no hope. Six months ago, when Children's Hospital let Lily move back home, she couldn't talk or walk. The traumatic brain injury from the accident hadn't destroyed her thinking ability, but it was - and still is - playing havoc with her muscular control.
That's where the work comes in. Day after day, with mother Jean serving as willing chauffeur, Lily spends time with medical and health specialists, including an orthopedist, a nutrionist and several kinds of therapists. Occasionally she puts up with injections, pushing her limits as her body tries to heal.
Couldn't talk? That's definitely changed. Although the lingering brain/muscle issues affect her intonation, she talks up a storm now. She cracks up Jean with the things she sometimes says, such as a few weeks ago when she told her that what she really wanted was "beer and cigars." And, during a recent reporter's visit, her idea of an interview was counting in Spanish.
Her father Tom and her four sisters (Deanna, Wendy, Bonnie and Valerie, her twin) are also targets of Lily's humor. They happily play board games with her (a favorite hobby, although she still has trouble holding the pieces), and how does she reward them? A recent entry in Jean's website journal tells about Lily getting hold of the TV remote and playfully forwarding and rewinding a children's movie everyone else was trying to watch.
Lily's humor even emerged during a recent, fatiguing visit to Children's Hospital. After anesthesia, injections, an orthopedic examination and an adjustment of her leg braces. "we were walking along the hallway to go see the rest of our friends on the rehabilitation floor," Jean's journal reads. "There is a lot of beautiful art work and a lot to look at at Children's. Lily told Tom, 'I spy a turtle.' Tom glanced around and answered 'Oh yeah?' Lily replied, 'I made you look!' It was so funny, and even more so since her voice was still gravelly from the anesthesia and being put under. She is such a character!"
At Howbert Elementary, where Lily had been a kindergartener in 2007-08, she started the school year in special reading, but her progress bumped her back to a regular class. She's got the part of an elf driving a sleigh in Howbert's upcoming presentation of the "Incredible Reindeer," to be presented Dec. 16 at the Coronado High auditorium.
Everybody in school seems to know her. When children walk by her, sitting in her wheelchair, they say, "Hi, Lily," and she flashes her sunny smile and sometimes say "Hi" back.
Her walking is still limited, but Jean works with her daughter daily, supporting part of her weight and providing encouragement. "We're gradually increasing the amount of time that Lily is spending walking around the house. I made her do a full set of stairs twice yesterday," Jean's journal states. "I even got her to step up with her left foot a number of times, and on the last few stairs, she went up, one foot on each stair (instead of stepping up with her right foot, and then just putting her left foot next to the right). She supports at least half of her weight when she's walking around, and I sometimes try to support her less. She's getting stronger though. That's clear to see."
There is no definite prognosis on recovery. "Because of her brain injury, she has what is called 'dystonia,' which basically causes her muscles to seize up or go into certain patterns of tightness which limits and impacts her movement," Jean explained in a recent e-mail. "She fights the dystonia every moment of every day. We believe that this is also impacting her oral/facial muscles as well which is impacting her speech and eating."
Jean believes in doctors, but she also believes in the power of prayer. That's all she really asks of the community, although the medical bills are crushing, and many people have helped with donations. For months, Rick's Nursery ran a "Lilies for Lily" fundraiser. "We've seen an amazing outpouring from the community and people around the world," Jean said.
The experience has even brought the family in touch with a rock celebrity. John Kay of Steppenwolf found out about Lily and heard that she liked his song, "Born to Be Wild," and this resulted in him sending supportive e-mails, album CDs and an autographed picture.
Lily does not seem to remember the accident, but talking about it makes her sad. In her journal, Jean tells about a recent time when her daughter asked her, "Why doesn't the president make speeding illegal?" Jean's reaction to that: "It made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. I told her that speeding was illegal, but I marveled at her thoughts, knowing that the president could have some power to do something to help."
A plea bargain has been worked out with the driver, whose name has not been released because he was under 18. According to Jean, his attorney and the DA's office reduced his charge to reckless driving. "It's my understanding that he's lost his license and that he will be serving 200 hours of community service. He will also be paying restitution."
But Jean prefers that media coverage - and there has been a fair amount of it - not dwell on that side of the story. "My focus is completely on Lily and my family," she said. That other stuff doesn't matter too much to me."
Westside Pioneer article