‘Pray for Daisy:’ Local teen defies odds, recovers from severe brain injury

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GRAY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Life can change in a matter of seconds. For Daisy Side, a 14-year-old cheerleader and student at Daniel Boone High School, it did.

In a car wreck on June 20 Daisy suffered a traumatic brain injury.

She was sitting in the backseat without a seatbelt on when the crash happened.

“When she hit her head in the car accident it was such a hard hit that the brain diffused inside the skull,” said Daisy’s mom, Tonya Side. “There were no fractures to her head, face or body, her brain just came apart.”

Two other teenagers were in the car, including Daisy’s brother. However, she was the only one seriously injured.

“I honestly wouldn’t want it to happen to anyone else. So, I’m glad it happened to me,” Daisy said.

Daisy says she does not remember the wreck at all or her six weeks at Johnson City Medical Center.

But, those are days her mom will never forget.

“They were preparing us to have a hospital bed in our home, the trach and the feeding tube, and her be in diapers. To have no quality of life whatsoever,” Tonya said.

Daisy suffered what is called a diffuse axonal injury, or DAI. According to Hopkins Medicine, DAI is the tearing of the brain’s long connecting nerve fibers that happens when the brain is injured as it shifts and rotates inside the skull.

Many times, DAI can cause severe disability and mortality following the closed head trauma, which happens often after traffic crashes.

For weeks in the hospital, Daisy’s brain was working to heal itself. She was unconscious, intubated, fed through a tube, and at times constantly moving as her brain took control over her body.

“In my mind I’m thinking, ‘How would I ever be able to take care of her? How would anybody be able to take care of her?'” Tonya asked through tears.

Following four really bad days of “thrashing” and “brain storming,” through Daisy’s constant movement came a welcome surprise. Daisy rested, was alert and responsive. Doctors were shocked at her overnight change.

From that point forward, every day was better than the last.

“I think it is very much a miracle and I am very thankful for that,” Daisy said. “I feel like every time people see me they thought I would have problems and be in a wheelchair. I’m thankful I’m not any of the above.”

Daisy left Johnson City Medical Center in August, headed for the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. Here she would continue extensive rehab.

“It just felt like I had a weight lifted off my shoulders,” Daisy said. “I just wanted my life to go back to normal and for everything to be normal again. I just kept telling myself that.”

Step-by-step Daisy began her physical recovery, learning to walk again.

She also wrote everything down on pads and dry erase boards when she could not speak for four weeks.

Daisy says all the way in Georgia she could feel the community’s support.

“It just made me feel powerful in a sense. I was just very thankful for everyone that was nice and prayed and thought about me,” Daisy said.

This looked like yard signs, fundraisers, and prayers. The community rallied and held vigils for the family back home.

“I really feel like the prayers from so many that didn’t even know her, I feel like God heard those prayers,” Tonya said. “That’s why she had a miraculous turnaround and is where she is now.”

Daisy came back home to Gray on Oct. 12 with a new lease on life.

She starts back to school in a few weeks and plans to slowly pursue her passion of cheering once again.

“That’s the goal. I don’t know if I will be where I was, but that’s my hopes and dreams,” she said.

More than $15,000 were donated through a GoFundMe account to help Daisy’s family with their mounting medical bills. The family says they remain grateful for everyone who sent a card, a meal, bought a t-shirt or whispered a prayer.

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