Emilee Holloway continues to make progress by leaps and bounds as she recovers from her surgery.
In September, the toddler had brain surgery to stop debilitating seizures when medications failed. Surgeons removed the portion of her brain causing the seizures and disconnected the rest of the left side, and her brain is re-routing itself to compensate for the loss of that left side.
She has since been seizure-free going from three seizure medications to one, and if the EEG is clear in six months, then she'll reportedly be removed from all seizure medications.
Emilee's mother, Jennifer Holloway, said her whole demeanor has changed. She is happy all the time and is now discovering a whole new world.
"She was fussy before we got here (home)," Holloway said, "and as soon as we walked in the door, her whole demeanor changed. She's happy all the time. She's smiled more in the last three weeks than she has her whole life."
She's even trying to talk again. While she picked up her signature word "hey" within a few days following surgery, she is now attempting to say "mama" again.
"Her speech center did move," Holloway said.
Her therapists now work with her on balance, trying to get her to use her right side and stand. While she isn't crawling, she has figured out how to scoot across the floor.
"They (therapists) don't think it will be but a couple of months and she'll be walking again," Holloway said. "Her therapists are blown away by how good she's doing. They had never worked with a patient whose had this type of surgery before and they were happy with her progress."
She sits up fairly well, too, according to her mother. She's now wearing shoes, which are heavy on her, Holloway said.
"When she steps on her right side, she's still a little wobbly," Holloway said.
Emilee continues to wear a leg brace to keep her leg and foot turned the way it should be.
Emilee's sensory perceptions have improved, according to her mother.
"Where before she wouldn't grab someone's hand, she now holds her our hands," Holloway said. "Where she would use the palm of her hand to push buttons on her toys, she's now using one finger to push the buttons. Where she couldn't tolerate being outdoors before, we can now take her outside for longer periods of time."
Holloway said while at the hospital, they were able to take her outside. She enjoyed being around a therapy dog, and when she was around people and it didn't bother her.
Also, Emilee is regaining use of her right side. While her face is still noticeably paralyzed, that seems to be getting better every day, Holloway said. She's using her leg and trying to figure out how to use her right arm again as well.
"When she gets mad, that's when she uses it the most," she said.
Holloway said Emilee knows that her right side is there and she is using her right hand some.
The toddler is adjusting to food as well.
"Before, she would do pretty well with finger foods and she continues to do so," said her mother. "Now, she even puts her hands in her food, which is something she wouldn't do before.
"It's almost like having a brand new baby getting to watch all these things happening," Holloway continued. "It's the small things that she can do now. She can suck on a sucker and she can hold her bottle now. It's unbelievable what the brain can do. It's a real-life miracle that we've all seen."
As this toddler continues to make progress, she seems to have a bright future.
"It's very possible Emilee could even go to school now – the sky is the limit," Holloway said. "If she can walk and become somewhat independent, there's no telling where life will take her."
Asked if they'd known before the surgery what they know following the surgery, Holloway said, "I wish that we'd known how good it was going to be before (the surgery), otherwise we'd have done it a long time ago."
Holloway said they've received well wishes, cards, gifts and most of all prayers since Emilee had brain surgery. They've received post cards from people all over the country, even overseas.
NHRA Funny Car Driver Cruz Pedgregon and NHRA Top Fuel Dragster Driver TJ Zizzo have sent race memorabilia as well as photos with their signatures and profiles on them. Pedgregon even came to the hospital and visited with the family following the surgery.
Holloway said the two drivers have asked the family to keep in touch and have invited them to the races once Emilee is older.
The family wishes to thank everyone who prayed for Emilee, came to the hospital to see her, sent donations, cards, the words of encouragement offered, and the thoughtful care packages.
"Whatever you did for Emilee is greatly appreciated," Holloway said. "The power of prayer carried all of us through this storm in our lives."
A very special thank you goes out to their families for love and support before, during and after Emilee's surgery.
"Thank you all for being there for us through all of this," Holloway said. "Please continue to pray for Emilee. Although she is doing well, she has a long road ahead of her. God bless you all."
(Michelle Bates is editor of the Guardian Journal in Homer.)