DALLAS –– Pictures captured Makenzie Wethington’s face lighting up after walking across a room for the first time since she survived plunging more than 3,000 feet to the ground during a skydiving accident.
“The doctor at OU said that they didn't expect her to come out of that at all,” said her father Joe Wethington. His daughter originally received care in Oklahoma, near where the accident occurred. “And now she's walking across the room.”
“The injuries she's had and the way that she's recovered,” said spinal cord specialist Dr. Seema Sikka. “I still think it's incredible.”
Sikka, along with a team of specialists at the Baylor Institute of Rehabilitation in Dallas, are overseeing Wethington’s care now. The 16-year old was critically injured when her parachute failed to open properly during a skydiving venture in Oklahoma. Her father watched from the ground.
“I just kept saying, ‘please don't be Makenzie. Please don't be Makenzie,’” said Joe. “And when I got over, it was her."
Doctors say she has fractures in her spine, ribs, pelvis and hips. She has countless painful bruises and was bleeding internally. The other injuries heal. Doctors are still evaluating whether brain bleeding has affected her cognitive abilities. So far, doctors say the prognosis is positive.
Doctors say Makenzie is now well enough to begin the hard work of rehab. At the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation, she’ll undergo at least three hours a day to learn to perform daily tasks again. Without insurance, Makenzie’s rehab is being covered out Baylor’s charity budget.
Her parents say Wethington remembers jumping out of the plane, but won't speak of the accident. She told her mother she passed out.
"I asked before and she was agitated about it,” says Joe Wethington. “But she'll get better."
Doctors say Makenzie's biggest challenges will be pain and patience. For a teenager who says roller coasters are boring, her parents say the long process of rehab may be the second greatest challenge of her life.
“My concern is not about what happened that day, it's about that she's alive and there's a reason for it,” said Makenzie’s mother, Holly Wethington. “And my daughter is still here and I get to see her every day. I don't care if she ever remembers. I'm just glad that she's here and she's walking and she's alive.”