Gracen’s Story

10-year-old Gracen was enjoying Christmas break in Wisconsin with her family when the snowmobile she was riding with her parents suddenly collided with another snowmobile. Despite wearing a high-quality helmet, Gracen was knocked out.

In the 20 minutes between the collision and the ambulance’s arrival, Gracen’s parents, Rod and Laura, performed CPR when she stopped breathing. They had no idea what the scope of her injuries were, or how permanent the physical or mental damage might be. She was airlifted to an acute care hospital in Duluth, Minnesota.

Three days later, Gracen woke up, unable to move the left side of her body or speak. She had a fracture at the base of her skull, a severe traumatic brain injury, and a torn muscle in her left shoulder. After six days, Gracen finally began speaking; after twelve, she was ready for intensive therapy.

Her parents and the caretakers at the hospital choose ChildServe for Gracen’s rehabilitation process because they knew she would be cared for by an entire team of pediatric rehab specialists.

Gracen & Brittany in thePool

By the time Gracen arrived at ChildServe she had regained movement and feeling in her left leg, but she couldn’t move her left arm. Her first accomplishment in ChildServe’s inpatient therapy program occurred over the weekend.

“When we got here on a Friday, Gracen could wiggle her fingers on the left hand, but that was it,” said Laura. “Over the weekend she had a full schedule of therapy appointments. By Monday she could lift her arm about six to eight inches, and on Wednesday she could lift it above her shoulder. The full therapy schedule at ChildServe made a huge difference.”

Laura noticed that the therapy team found many ways to keep Gracen focused and working toward her goals. Gracen loves to swim, so her therapists motivated her to complete difficult therapy tasks by using swimming as a reward. ChildServe’s Aquatic Therapy program allowed Gracen to bring more swimming and play-based activities into her intensive therapy sessions.

Due to lingering dizziness from her brain injury, Gracen’s therapy team also focused on helping her safely perform daily tasks like dressing herself, taking showers, brushing her teeth, using the stairs, balancing, and sleeping in her own bed. When she first came to ChildServe, Gracen’s team was especially concerned about safety while sleeping.

Gracen in Speech Therapy
Gracen in Speech Therapy with Family

“If Gracen woke up in the middle of the night she would try to get up to use the bathroom or get a drink on her own.” said Laura. “She wasn’t steady enough to jump out of bed like that yet, so we needed the posey bed to keep her safe.”

A posey bed has protective netting that creates a tent over the top of the mattress to keep children like Gracen from falling out of bed, or getting up by themselves and falling.

“We called it a tent bed because she was completely zipped in. I thought she’d feel caged in,” said Laura. “She actually loved it. She would even tell people, ‘I want to go back to my bed!’  Part of her care plan for going home included sleeping in a big bed, and if she needed to get up she had to ask for help.”

Even though Gracen’s team of professionals came from different specialty areas, strong communication helped them monitor Gracen’s progress.

Gracen in the pool doing therapy
Gracen in Physical Therapy bouncing a yellow ball.

“All the therapists here seem to talk to each other a lot. They knew how Gracen’s therapy was progressing,” said Laura. “One day Gracen’s Occupational Therapist Beth Hennes realized that lists work well for motivating Gracen. She used it that day and the list showed up later in Speech Therapy, and again in Physical Therapy. The next day they all brought their own lists.”

By creating a strong partnership through clear communication about care plans and goals, ChildServe staff helped Rod and Laura regain a sense of control during Gracen’s recovery period.

“Dr. Fred and the therapy team explain things really well,” said Rod. “During our care meetings each specialist around the table had a chance to talk to us. We felt knowledgeable about the things happening in all the areas of her recovery plan.”

As Gracen grew stronger and prepared to move home, ChildServe staff helped the family prepare for what steps would come next.

“ChildServe helped us plan to get Gracen back to school safely and contacted the outpatient therapy clinic we’ll be attending closer to home,” said Laura. “They also scheduled all our appointments for vision and medical check ups. They did all that for us just to make the going home process easier.”


ChildServe improves the health and well-being of 4,600 children each year through specialized clinical, home, and community-based programs and services. We serve children with developmental delays, disabilities, injuries, and other special healthcare needs.

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