For Raegan Permetter, 11, the physical injuries she suffered after being hit by a car last fall have slowly healed. And while she remembers nothing about the accident itself, the lingering effects of a traumatic brain injury are still part of her day-to-day life.
Her mother, Molly Ealy, said Raegan's had several milestones as part of her ongoing recovery — the first time she could spend the night at a friend's house or go to the mall with kids her age. But by far, the largest milestone, Ealy said, was Raegan being able to go back to school in April.
Raegan completed her last day of sixth grade Thursday at Shawnee Middle School and is now looking forward to summer.
With a soft-spoken voice and a smile, Raegan, who said she enjoys spending time with her friends and playing with her dogs, said she doesn't remember the accident that caused her injuries.
It was dark and there was a heavy rainstorm about 7:33 p.m. on Sept. 26, the night Raegan was injured while crossing Farrall at Bell Street.
Doctors treated her for injuries including a fractured skull and forehead, fractured eye sockets, a broken leg and collarbone and internal injuries, her mother said.
While spending six weeks in the hospital and a rehabilitation center, Raegan, who was an avid soccer player, would see photos of people holding up posters in the Shawnee community and also received endless support and encouragement from area sports teams.
Since the accident, she's endured countless surgeries, including the most recent in February to reconstruct ligaments in her knee.
While it's been a long road for Raegan physically, Ealy said dealing with the TBI — traumatic brain injury — has been a challenge for both Raegan and the family.
The last eight months have been "chaotic," Ealy said, but she's also thankful. While every doctor is telling them something different on the amount of time it takes to heal from a brain injury, they're just taking it one day at a time.
"Every brain injury affects people differently…her brain is still in the phase that every day is something new," Ealy said. "It's challenging at times…she's been a trooper."
Raegan still attends physical and speech therapy four times each week, her mother said, and they'll likely begin seeing a new specialist for the brain injury after doctors discovered a hole in her frontal lobe. Ealy said that area is the part of her brain that controls behavior and personality.
While she was home recuperating most of the school year, Ealy said the hardest thing for Raegan was being inactive, but she was able to keep up her studies. Ealy said Allison Cleveland, a sixth grade teacher from SMS, came to their home and helped Raegan with her schoolwork before she could return to classes last month. Ealy said Raegan, who made the honor roll, should be ready for seventh grade in the fall.
Page 2 of 2 - And while the brain injury will take time and patience, Ealy said Raegan is ready to get back on the soccer field and also wants to play softball this fall, but the healing from the latest knee surgery will be the deciding factor on when and if that can happen.
Ealy, who said the accident has given them an opportunity to advocate about drivers slowing down and paying attention, said the community support for Raegan has helped them tremendously.
"We wouldn't have made it this far without all those who have supported us," Ealy said.
During her recovery, the community supported Raegan and her family through a Facebook page and area children from many sports teams in which Raegan participated often wore Raegan's soccer team No. 7 on their uniforms or helmets.
As Raegan and her family focused on her recovery, a juvenile driver was charged in connection with the accident.
Shawnee police investigated what began as a hit-and-run accident after a witness who saw Raegan being struck followed the alleged suspect vehicle and obtained a tag number, which led officers to a 17-year-old driver.
The teen driver didn't stop and told police it was because she thought she had hit an animal so she "freaked out and kept driving," according to the accident report.
While the report does list pedestrian action as a contributing factor to the accident and shows no improper action by the teen driver, the case was turned over to the district attorney's office for further review because of the hit-and-run aspect.
Prosecutors charged the teen driver with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, but because the case was filed in the juvenile court system, no information can be obtained on the outcome of that case.
While the family has been helped by insurance, Ealy said, there have been several fundraising benefits over the past eight months to help Raegan and her family with ongoing medical bills and expenses. A benefit fund in Raegan's name remains open at BancFirst.