Young girl receives prestigious award following traumatic injury

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- McKinley Blue was injured in a serious car accident back in May, but Wednesday she, her family and staff at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital Omaha Campus celebrated her departure from the hospital and her birthday.

Back in May, McKinley and her grandmother were rear-ended at 172nd and Q Streets where McKinley suffered a serious brain injury. She was even put into a medically-induced coma at one point.

"So many precautions that I've taken in life to just guarantee their safety, and it doesn't work because life just happens,” McKinley’s mother Jessica Blue said.

News of the crash was shocking to the family as McKinley was rushed to Children’s Hospital.

"It was still really sad because I knew this was going to be a really big part of my life,” McKinley’s sister Miley Blue said.

For the last 1.5 months, she has been recovering with the staff at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals.

The journey has not been easy, but Cait Scott, a speech language pathologist at Madonna, said it was through the help of McKinley’s older sister that really pushed her through therapy.

"Her mom calls her her primary therapist because she's in the therapy with her. She's encouraging her. She's telling her, 'Oh, McKinley. You can do better than that,’” Scott said.

Wednesday, Scott and other staff members awarded McKinley with the Spirit Award given to those who show courage, dedication and resilience through therapy.

Since the award is not given to all patients, staff was especially honored to give it to one who was strong and extraordinary. They owe much of her recovery to her support team.

"When they have their family here, it's kind of like 'Okay, everybody's here. Everybody's supporting me. It's kind of my time to shine. It's my time to work hard,' so it does make a huge difference,” Scott said.

As McKinley and her sister Miley walked through the doors of the play area at the hospital, both came donned with McKinley’s signature pink helmet.

"I wanted her to feel like she was beautiful, so I did it for her as well so we could be matching because she loves it when we're matching,” Miley said. “She is off the charts beautiful.”

Miley is 10-years-old. She tells 6 News her little sister is her best friend, and she was proud to be able to help her sister through therapy.

"I just love how much she's recovered because I know I'm going to have my little sister back. She just loves me so much, and I love her just so much,” Miley said.

Miley said she has told her little sister what exactly she’d be going through in therapy in terms McKinley would understand, offering love, motivation and encouragement every step of the way.

"McKinley wants to keep up with Miley in everything that she does, so she talked sooner. She walked sooner. She's dancing,” Jessica said.

After McKinley received her spirit award, the staff at Madonna said their goodbyes and helped celebrate McKinley’s fifth birthday.

Though McKinley left the hospital Wednesday, Scott said she’ll have more to overcome in the future.

"She still has a little bit of balance issues. She is definitely going to be going through several surgeries to have her skull flap replaced because as you grow, your head grows, your skin grows, all of that,” Scott said.

It’s unknown how much longer McKinley will need to wear her helmet, but her Miley said she will continue to wear hers until her sister no longer needs to.

"She's just an amazing human being,” Miley said. "She's just my best friend. I love her a little more than my parents."

McKinley will start kindergarten this fall at Neihardt Elementary School.