It Takes A Village: How Kesha Pilot and The FoundationTurned Tragedy Into Triumph
Generally on Independence Day people celebrate freedom— but in the wee hours of July 4, 2012 near Hot Springs, 25-year-old Kesha Pilot experienced a loss of freedom few will ever know. With husband Clay riding in the passenger seat, 2-year-old son Parker in the backseat and Kesha Pilot at the wheel the Pilots were 18 hours into a 19 hour trip back from a family wedding in Key West, Florida. “At 3:33 my eyes closed for a second and I woke back up and my heart was pounding and I thought ‘wow.’ I thought that had scared me awake—and it didn’t,” Pilot said. By 3:49 the Pilots were off the road with very little control of the car, according to Pilot. “I remember Clay looked at me and said, ‘oh my God honey,’ and I looked at him and said, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ And seconds later the car stopped.”
Kesha and Clay undid each other’s seatbelts. “I didn’t realize we were upside down until I turned around and looked at Parker, our son in the backseat-- he was dangling, his arms were dangling.” Fortunately for the Pilots a former volunteer firefighter who on his way to Texas that early morning was able to smash the window out allowing Clay to exit the car and remove their virtually uninjured 2-year-old son. Kesha Pilot however, could not exit the car. “Immediately I told him I can’t feel my legs,” Pilot said. They were taken to a local hospital where Kesha was given medicine and an x-ray that revealed that she needed to go to Baptist Health. She was rushed to Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock and was in surgery by noon. Pilot suffered a burst fracture, a typical seatbelt injury from the pressure generated in car wrecks. She was paralyzed from the waist down.
The teams at Baptist Health Rehabilitation Institute (BHRI) were called to action within a few weeks of the accident to help her recover. The Baptist Health Foundation-funded program David’s Village-- located within BHRI—was utilized in Pilot’s recovery, providing a setting for life-like and everyday world experiences within a safe rehabilitation setting. Joyce Poole, care coordinator at BHMC-LR, worked with Pilot during her rehabilitation process. “Kesha was a pleasure to work with. She was always positive and willing to try anything we asked her to do to enable her to be independent,” Poole said. The facility at BHMC-LR had its perks for patients too, according to Pilot. “Having gone to two different rehab facilities, I could definitely say that Baptist has more spacious rooms. Their staff is a lot more accommodating,” Pilot said. “My husband was able to stay with me in the room the entire time I was there and I really needed that support. They just did everything they could to make me comfortable.”
Prior to the accident, the spring semester of 2012, Pilot was attending college at National Park Community College while preparing to study Biology at Henderson College on the Presidential Community College Transfer Scholarship, which they give to one student a year. “At that time I was going to school so that I could apply to medical school, I was going to apply to dental school and also apply to the physician’s assistant program,” Pilot said. “I wanted to do something where I was helping people and taking care of people, but after the accident I started to rethink that.” Though she may not be helping people the way she originally planned to, she intends to start a chapter of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association in Arkansas as her way of serving others. According to Poole, Pilot had a great attitude for helping others, which may serve her well in the future. “She looked beyond her own needs and offered friendship and support to other patients with similar issues,” Poole said. “She will do well in any situation she chooses. “As for the donors that helped make David’s Village possible, Pilot said she is grateful. “People that care enough about me, about people that they don’t even know, to donate money and to donate time—it’s a real blessing,” Pilot said. “Arkansas is lucky to have this facility and its staff.”
The Smith Family, and Baptist Health Foundation's Best Friends Program
Raelyn Smith was born in Monticello on January 30, 2012, at 2:44 p.m. — a common birth story would end there, but that’s where Raelyn’s story begins. Raelyn had fluid in her lungs and was having trouble breathing, compounded with being born premature. Her doctors determined that she needed to be transported to Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock. Shortly after the decision was made, Raelyn was soaring high above in Baptist Health’s MedFlight helicopter, bound for Little Rock. “Colby [Raelyn’s mother] only saw her for about 10 seconds, touched her once, and she was gone,” said Stephen Smith, Raelyn’s father. Stephen, who had been working long hours for the past two days and had only packed for a one- or two-day stay at the hospital in Monticello, was suddenly headed for Little Rock.
Baptist Health transport nurse Ciara McClanahan said Raelyn needed a Level III facility for specialized care, equipment, and staff. “If no specialized resources are available at the referral facility for care of the premature or ill infant, the results could be devastating to the infant and family,” McClanahan said. "Prematurity and respiratory distress syndrome are the main reasons that babies have to be transported to a Level III facility."
Baptist Health medical staff was able to get Raelyn stabilized soon after she arrived, but Stephen was not prepared for a hospital stay.“It’s exhausting. My sister was going to come up that afternoon and see my newborn daughter, so I asked her if she would bring me a blanket and maybe a pillow, because I was going to sleep in my truck,”he said. “Then I found out about the Foundation, and they got me set up in the [Baptist Plaza hotel] room for two days.”
Baptist Health Foundation was there to help through a program called “Best Friends," a progressive group of community-minded individuals who are committed to changing and improving lives through the collective resources of its members. In 2012, Best Friends is providing hotel rooms for families whose babies are in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and who are experiencing extended stays at BHMC-LR, like the Smiths. “I’ve slept in a truck, and you’re safe and it’s better than sleeping on the ground, but when you’ve had two days of no rest and you’re worried about your daughter—you’re not going to get much sleep in a truck,” Smith said.
“Once I found out that the Foundation would help people in this situation, it was a big relief. It was like a miracle, or a dream come true, because it’s not every day you have someone that is willing to help people in that situation … My wife and I thank God every day for things like that.”
Larry Slaten’s Story of Emergency Care
A relaxing afternoon in a favorite reclining chair soon became a matter of life or death for 54-year-old computer programmer Larry Slaten.
Out of nowhere, Slaten became violently ill and he knew he needed to seek medical help quickly. “It was such a strange thing, and something told me ‘you know, you need to go to the emergency room,” Slaten said. He could never imagine how serious it was until he arrived at Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock’s emergency department where tests were administered immediately.
Slaten collapsed into cardiac arrest while leaving the Cath Lab forcing nurses to begin administering CPR. “He was in cardiogenic shock and gravely ill,” explained Dr. Michael Bauer. Three of Slaten’s arteries were clogged and an emergency operation was required with time being of the essence for Slaten and the Baptist Health staff.
With procedures already in progress, the unplanned surgery required that off-duty nurses rush to the hospital and assist Dr. Bauer. “I know that was nothing but positive for me, and I am thankful,” Slaten said. Though he doesn’t remember much, he thought about his only remaining family member; his 73-year-old mother who was on her way to the hospital, according to Slaten. Dr. Bauer and the nursing team completed the 4 hour coronary artery bypass at 1:22 a.m.
Slaten’s procedure went well and he began recovery. “[His mother] was very thankful. Evidently, she always had the positive thoughts through the whole first week while I was unconscious after surgery-- telling Dr. Bauer everything was going to work out fine and that I’d make it,” Slaten said. Working from home through contracted work, he is back to a rather normal everyday life. “The staff at Baptist Health helped keep me alive, and I’m happy to be here,” Slaten said. “Everyday I have now is a bonus.”
Student Section, In Their Own Words
Elizabeth, 2012 BHSLR Senior
“This scholarship could not have came at a better time. When I found out that I had received this scholarship, I honestly could not believe it. It made my day! I felt so thankful and relieved at the same time. I had been worried about how I was going to be able to pay for the rest of the semester. This semester has been very stressful. It takes all of my time and energy just keeping up with school. It was so nice to know that I would not have to worry about finances any more. Since I was a little girl, I have known that I wanted to be a part of a profession where I could help people. People are my passion. When I see some one struggling or in pain, I want to be able to help them. I believe that the field of nursing is the perfect spot for me. When I graduate, I want to be able to use my skills as a nurse on the mission field. Without this scholarship, this would not be possible. To the donor I will ever be thankful. Thank you for helping me be able to accomplish my dreams!”
Susan, 2012 Graduating Class
“In June I will graduate with honors from the Baptist Health School of Nursing RN program. I have worked hard to achieve honors and take advantage of all of the learning opportunities available to me. The scholarships I received from the Baptist Health Foundation helped make this possible. The scholarships eased my financial burden which allowed me to focus on the most important aspect of school, learning. I have been amazed and in awe of God’s creation of the human body and the dedication of the teaching staff and healthcare workers. My goal is to work at one of the Baptist Health System facilities and help other students as I have been helped. I will forever be grateful to the generosity and support of the Baptist Health Foundation.”
The DASIY Award: Baptist Health Foundation Donors Make it Possible
Q&A with Kayla, RN, DAISY Award Recipient
Q: What emotions did you feel when they announced your name as the recipient?
A: I felt surprised, humbled, honored and proud.
Q: What would you like to say to the donors who made this program possible?
A: Thank you for supporting a program that honors a nurse for a job well done. Much of the hard work that nurses do goes unnoticed and using programs like this encourages nurses and challenges them to do their best.
Q: How does it feel to be recognized in front of your peers?
A: It was quite embarrassing to be recognized in front of my peers but the praise and support they showed was overwhelming and fulfilling.
Q: How important is it that we maintain programs like these?
A: It is very important to keep programs like these because it gives nurses something to work toward, and those who achieve it feel a sense of honor, pride and importance to the work they perform on a daily basis.
Volunteer Testimonials from 2012 Bolo Bash
- Phyllis, 33-year Baptist Health employee and Patient Safety Officer at BHMC-LR/BHRI, said people thinking about volunteering should “just do it” because it’s another way to support Baptist Health. “It is always a great experience meeting the folks who support BH through their donations and attendance,” she said. “[Volunteering] is a way to provide extra services to our patients and the community while helping Baptist Health with the budgetary costs.”
- Patient representative, Sumonia, has been at Baptist Health for less than a year and looked to Bolo Bash to get involved and meet new people. “This was my first time volunteering for Bolo Bash. I decided to volunteer because I like volunteering and helping people. I also thought that it would be a great way to meet people and get involved in different hospital activities. It was nice to get to meet a wide variety of people. It was also interesting to look at the different items that were created for the silent auction,” she said. The experience was great according to Sumonia.