story

Carly Christine Draudt

The Carly that we remember, and the Carly we miss, exemplified the word unique. As a devout Christian her friends admired her strong beliefs. However, acquaintances hadn’t a clue as to the depth of her spirituality. This is because every wonderful deed she did silently.

When Carly was home, on break from school, she would wake up before sunrise and get in an early morning run with her father before he left for work around 5 a.m. The two had grown especially close after he suffered a heart attack a few years ago.

Before the accident exciting changes were taking place in Carly’s life. Graduation was quickly approaching and she was starting to talk seriously about marrying Clint, her boyfriend of three years.

Throughout her college years, Carly was always active. She maintained a 3.8 GPA, served as secretary for the psychology club, held a part-time job, and of course she played volleyball—which, as a full-scholarship player at the NCAA level is a full time job in itself.

There is no way to describe the life she lived or the lives that she touched. Carly was at the starting line of life, anxiously anticipating life beyond the secure walls of college. On her bookshelf, the book “The Most Romantic Destinations In the World,” rests. She was often teased by her friends about her old-fashioned fanciful ideas of romance and relationships. She always had her head in the clouds. Inside the front cover are these words written in Carly’s handwriting:

“This book was purchased in anticipation of Carly and Clint’s adventures in life.”-August 2003

Carly’s Accident

On October 14, 2003 Carly Christine Draudt was looking for an excuse to avoid that afternoon’s volleyball cookout. She had a psychology test the next day and didn’t feel ready. Seeing no way out she decided to attend the cookout and then head straight to the library.

That morning she asked Clint, her boyfriend, to run some errands. He agreed. That morning was the last time that he would see the Carly he had fallen in love with over the past four years of college.

Carly never made it to the library that night. Instead she spent that night and dozens more in intensive care at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center.

The accident happened before dinner was served. The volleyball girls spotted the host’s Jet Skis in the waterway. Carly wanted to ride, but she was nervous. Her teammate and friend, Katie, decided to drive the Jet Ski, while Carly sat behind her.

No one knows exactly what happened next. According to reports the girls took off down the waterway. They turned a corner down the narrow river, hit a sandbar and were propelled into nearby trees. Katie’s face hit the tree breaking dozens of bones. She was thrown into the water. However, she was conscious and screamed out in pain. Carly hit her head against Katie’s and fell onto her back. Unconscious she laid face up with her head turned to the side. Her position on the Jet Ski is one of the many miracles that saved her life.

Carly suffered a closed head injury. Because the impact did not fracture Carly’s skull, the blood could not be released and the intracranial pressure forced her head to swell rapidly. She was rushed to the hospital where she underwent two surgeries. In the first surgery the doctor put her brain back in place, as it had shifted and was no longer centered. The second surgery helped to drain the blood.

Carly’s parents were notified of the accident and instructed to fly out immediately as it was likely Carly would not make it through the night. Carly was kept in a drug-educed coma for two weeks. She was woken up slowly as the swelling decreased. Carly’s parents, sister and Clint sat by Carly’s side for two weeks talking to Carly despite her inability to respond. Eventually, Carly’s father had to go home and Carly’s mom stayed for another two months by her daughter’s bedside.

For weeks after Carly came out of the coma she lay still and almost completely unresponsive. One of her eyes would open slightly. And her right arm showed signs of movement.

After two months of intensive rehabilitation Carly was deemed physically strong enough to board a plane. She was transferred to St. Jude hospital in Fullerton upon her arrival in California. Eight days later she was sent home. Not because she was ready, but because her lifetime insurance benefit had run out. The insurance company had already paid more than they legally had to for Carly’s care.

So Carly’s therapy—where she transformed from a vegetative state to a walking and talking individual—was stopped. The rehab team, comprised of about half a dozen specialists rotating every hour stopped. Instead Christie, Carly’s mom, was handed a do-it-yourself rehab guide, which included work sheets and exercise routines. Carly’s nurses, who changed her diapers and filled her feeding tube, nicely showed Christie how to perform these tasks.

A Description of Carly Today

When you go to see Carly, she waits anxiously at the door for your arrival. She stands and walks with the assistance of a cane. Before you enter the room she asks her mom repeatedly…“who is coming? Why?” She perks when you enter the room. She screams in delight.

Her mother asks you to play a board game, such as Memory with her. As soon as Carly and her guests are busy her mother rushes off hoping to shower or quickly eat. Carly does great at Memory often winning the game. Carly often laughs hysterically and uncontrollably. Her left side does not function as well as the left and she curls it in close to her body. She must be reminded to use it.

She does not initiate conversation or ask questions without being prompted. She needs a rehabilitation team to be a constant stimulant daily.

Today our dreams for Carly have greatly changed. However, we follow her example and continue to dream. We dream of a day when Carly calls us on the phone and ask us how we are. We go on day to day with small goals and dreams. We have faith in our Carly and her inner-will. Although her personality is no longer the Carly we knew, I know her being is the same. And if inside her body is a quarter of the drive she once had, I believe that with our help she will be OK.

Carly deserves a chance at life. It is unthinkable to ask one professional to take on the job of nurse and therapist for Carly. An entire team of professionals is needed. So how can we ask her mother, to take this on alone?

Rehabilitation in first year after a severe brain injury is vital. After this time period any progress will be minimal. Without therapy in the first year after rehabilitation Carly will endure unimaginable struggles throughout her entire life. We have an opportunity to enable her to get rehab, an opportunity to affect the outcome of one young girl’s entire life!