Horse-riding accident victim progresses

By: Laura Newell Telegraph staff writer
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One year ago this week, Jessica Baldwin-Lavine was kicked in the head by a horse, leaving her with a traumatic brain injury. According to her family, Jessica continues to recover every day. “We are excited to see where she is now. Seeing the year mark makes us see how far she will be in another year,” said Jolene Lavine, Jessica’s mother. On April 29, 2010, Jessica, 11, was preparing for her weekly horse-riding lesson, when another horse got in front of Jessica’s horse, Katie. “Katie moved out of the way as a natural instinct because she knew she would be kicked and left Jessica unprotected,” Jolene said. Jessica was kicked on the right side of her head, causing a severe traumatic brain injury. However, one year later, she is gaining strength. Jessica spent seven week in the hospital before returning home to her family — Jolene, her father Jesse and her 3-year-old sister Jocelyn. The long-time Folsom family, who now live in Orangevale, are glad to see Jessica’s progress. “Jessica is doing well,” Jolene said. “We are back at UC Davis in Sacramento for two weeks getting inpatient therapy.” With inpatient therapy, Jessica receives therapy two times a day for six days each week rather than when she received twice weekly outpatient therapy. “She is currently working on walking and talking and learning the most efficient ways to dress herself with her physical limitations,” Jolene said. “Due to insurance changes, the procedure to replace her skull (after a portion was originally removed) didn’t occur until last October. So, from October to December, she spent seven weeks in inpatient rehab where she made a lot of progress at UC Davis.” The family is also continuing to make progress. “We are doing a lot better,” Jolene said. “It has been a bumpy ride. Even though she survived the accident, there is a large grieving process once we were out of trauma mode. A lot of lessons learned, we are learning how to be patient. This is our new normal.” Even Jocelyn is understanding of her older sister’s new way of life. “Jocelyn is taking this all in stride,” said Jolene. “She is learning a lot from this situation, as we all are. We think she will be an inpatient home care therapist now. She is always helping.” Both Jessica and Jocelyn attended Brighton School on Levy Road in Folsom. “I think it’s fabulous to see Jessica’s shiny, bright eyes again,” said Monica Ballard, with Brighton Schools. “Jocelyn is really accepting of Jessica. She shows her off to her friends when her big sister comes to pick her up at school.” Last year, the community came together to help Jessica and her family better adapt to their new lifestyle. Jeff Look, owner and operator of Sunshine Services in Folsom, donated time and labor to help install five ramps for the family, allowing Jessica to go outside in her wheelchair. Look also remodeled the Lavine’s main bathroom by taking out a vanity sink, tiling the floor and installing a tiny corner sink to make room for her wheelchair. “There wasn’t enough space for (Jessica and her mom) to be in there together, so now she can get herself, the wheelchair and her mom in there all at once,” Look said. Look said he has been a family friend of the Lavines for years. “I’m very impressed with her recovery,” he said. “It is an amazing family. The strength they have is just amazing.” Kari Shipman, of Elk Grove, has been a close family friend of the Lavines as well. Jessica even calls Shipman her aunt. “Jessica is doing great,” she said. “She is very motivated and determined to continue to progress forward.” Barbra Jacobs, of Folsom, has been friends with the Lavine’s for years after her daughter met Jessica through a dance team. “Every time I see her, she has made amazing strides,” Jacobs said. “The improvement from visit to visit is visibly noticeable.” The family will have a celebration fundraiser of Jessica’s progress on the one-year anniversary on the accident from 8 a.m. to noon for a pancake breakfast at Strings Italian Café in Folsom on Saturday, April 30. “We want to express our gratitude to the community,” Jolene said. “This breakfast is for people to see how far Jessica has come and to celebrate the fact that miracles do happen.” Tickets are $7 per person and include pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns and a beverage, said Jacobs. All proceeds will benefit Jessica, said Jacobs. The goal is to sell 200 tickets. Call Jacobs at (916) 806-3417 or e-mail to purchase tickets. * * * HOW TO HELP What: Pancake breakfast When: 8 a.m. to noon Saturday Where: Strings Italian Café in Folsom Cost: $7 per person Tickets and info: (916) 806-3417 or e-mail