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The Power of a Thumbs Up – Meet Elliott Crittenden

The initial moments in the emergency room were terrifying for Amy, six-year-old Elliot Crittenden’s mother. “There were dozens of doctors and nurses crowded around the room where the paramedics had brought Elliott in from the ambulance. A doctor told me that Elliott could hear me, so I leaned over and told him I loved him as they started to take him away.”

This chaotic scene followed a nightmarish accident in which a distracted driver rear-ended the car carrying Elliott, his sister, and their father at seventy miles per hour. The high-speed impact left Elliott with a severe traumatic brain injury, numerous skull fractures, a fractured cervical vertebra, and a broken femur.

Elliott was whisked into surgery for an emergency craniectomy, involving the removal of part of his skull in an attempt to reduce the pressure on his brain. The initial surgery was successful, but afterward Elliott remained completely unresponsive, heightening fears that he might not regain adequate brain function.

Elliott continued to fight, and over the next two weeks his condition improved enough for him to come off the ventilator and start physical therapy. The doctors, nurses, and therapists kept working on small tasks like having him squeeze their hands or wiggle his toes. To graduate from the ICU, however, Elliott needed to perform a normally simple task: a thumbs up.

After weeks of work, Amy remembers the morning clearly. “I had walked down the hall for a moment and I heard cheers erupt from our room. They had asked Elliott to give a thumbs up and he’d finally done it.”

Upon leaving the ICU, Elliott underwent intensive rehabilitation therapy to help him regain strength in his legs and overcome initial speech and memory issues. Two months after the accident, they were finally able to return home.

The Crittendens understand there is still a long road ahead for Elliott, but to even be able to look toward the future is a testament to the high level of support he received while at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. “Words fail to describe how grateful we are. The care that Elliott received was absolutely first-class, and we felt supported and cared for throughout our ordeal. They turned the worst experience of our lives into a time that taught us that love and caring can seem without limits.” A year after the accident, they’re thrilled to have him back—happy, healthy and healing.