Mom's 'Miracle Child'
She wouldn’t give up.
It’s just that simple.
A “miracle child” is the way her mother Stephanie Schober-Tesdahl describes her daughter Kailey Tesdahl, the teen who inspired the hashtag #kaileystrong.
That might be understating things.
On her way to Centennial’s graduation ceremonies on June 5, 2017, Kailey and her older sister Ashley were in part of a three-vehicle wreck at the intersection of S. Hurst Road and Hidden Creek Parkway.
Ashley, who was driving, was banged up in the incident.
Kailey wasn’t as lucky. The 18-year-old suffered a traumatic brain injury and was rushed to Fort Worth’s John Peter Smith Hospital intensive care unit.
Thus began a long stint of time in the hospital and various rehabilitation and care centers.
Kailey returned home Dec. 18, 2017 and continued her rehabilitation at the Centre For Neuro Skills in Fort Worth. Her final day at the facility was Aug. 17, 2018.
“It’s a miracle, that’s the number one thing that comes to mind,” her mother said. “She’s come so far. I’ve seen this girl do impossible things. She’s just a miracle child.”
Stephanie Schober-Tesdahl said it is amazing to see where she is now because “it was pretty bad in the beginning.”
Kailey has gone from being non-verbal and unable to walk to finally collecting her diploma during Centennial’s graduation ceremony May 30 at TCU’s Ed & Rae Schollmaier Arena.
To the sound of cheers from the graduating class of 2018 and those in the crowd, Kailey crossed the stage, got hugs from Centennial principal Jimmy Neal, BISD Superintendent Dr. Bret Jimerson then received her diploma from Burleson School Board Trustee Shawn Minor.
It was an incredible moment according to Jimerson.
“She went first and they announced it as the final graduate of 2017 and the entire class of 2018 gave her a standing ovation,” Jimerson said. “It is one of those moments that you wish everyone could have witnessed, it was powerful. It was almost surreal, because we were witnessing an amazing event. We were witnessing a miracle. I can’t even put into words what happened that night considering how far she had come in less than a year.”
Jimerson admitted he really didn’t know how long it might take for Kailey to make her graduation walk.
“I simply love that little girl,” Jimerson said.
“It was amazing,” Kailey said. “I was speechless.”
Kailey admitted it wasn’t as emotional as some might think because in her mind graduation was something that was supposed to happen a year ago.
For her mother, graduation was special.
“It was good for us because it was closure,” her mom said. “It was something that was taken away and was given back to her. It was a happy time but very emotional because it was a year in the making.”
The day of the accident, Neal and Jimerson made a promise to the family that when Kailey was ready to walk the stage all they had to do was let them know.
When Kailey was ready she did it all herself. It was as simple as firing off an email to Neal and Jimerson.
Sending the email was easy, the journey to that moment was a rough one, Kailey said.
“Going through rehab was a very big challenge,” Kailey said. “At first it was hard. Whenever I got done with it all I could think was yeah!”
Kailey is now enrolled at the Burleson campus of Hill College. She’s getting her basic classes out of the way.
The ultimate goal is to become a counselor for people who have suffered brain injury and trauma because she wants to give back for all the help she has received.
Kailey said she couldn’t have made her way through her journey without the support of family and friends.
“They really helped out a lot,” Kailey said. “I just want to say thank you to my friends and family because they didn’t have to stick around for the whole last year but they did. It really means a lot. The support I’ve gotten from family and friends made this journey a lot easier for me to go through because, if not for them, I don’t know where I’d be.”
Stephanie Schober-Tesdahl said she thought Burleson had maybe become too big to help out a family facing a tragedy like Kailey’s.
But the city rallied around Kailey and she is so grateful for their support.
“I would like to express my family’s gratitude to the city and the people of Burleson,” Stephanie Schober-Tesdahl said. “We’d like to thank all the people who came to the fundraisers and everyone that donated. There were just so many people that came together for us. They lifted us up in prayer. They didn’t let us fall to the ground. They said ‘it is okay we got you guys.’”
Kailey wouldn’t give up and Burleson didn’t give up on her.