Manchester, Iowa

In 2008, Maleah McCool was airlifted to University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, close to death from injuries she suffered in a horrific car crash. She had head and brain injuries, a ruptured bowel, lung damage, and numerous broken bones including almost every bone in her face, her pelvis, right ankle and leg, and left wrist. A damaged kidney was later removed.

From the moment she arrived, UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital specialists worked as a team to save her life and repair her broken body. At first, doctors gave her only a slim chance of survival; but, to her family’s relief and joy, no one ever gave up. Her mother, Tami McCool remembers, “Every single person fought to keep her alive and did everything in their power to save her.” One physician, who was not on call, returned to the hospital after hearing her age and learning the extent of her injuries.

Maleah spent a month at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, staying in the pediatric intensive care unit for much of the time in a medically induced coma that gave her traumatized brain a chance to heal and letting her doctors and nurses work on her other injuries. After a month, still showing only slight improvement, Maleah was moved to a rehab facility closer to home in Waterloo. There, she had to re-learn to walk and talk and endure hours of painful physical therapy. With tutoring, Maleah was able to make up the time she missed at school and join her classmates the next school year.

In 2010, except for some short-term memory issues and a few “battle scars,” the always-smiling West Delaware native is doing well in school, writes poetry that she sets to her own compositions on the guitar, and wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up.

Maleah’s father, William, says that while the experience of having a child so seriously injured was “gut-wrenching,” he feels the whole family was well cared for during Maleah’s hospitalization. He was welcome at the morning meetings of her team of caregivers. “They were just awesome.”

Maleah is the youngest of four children in a very close family:. Adds Tami, “We cannot say enough about the patience, compassion, knowledge, and sincerity all the physicians and staff showed our entire family during such a stressful time. So many times they put our minds at ease, someone was always available to put an arm around our shoulders and comfort us or just listen.”

Today, there’s very little trace of the young girl who spent a month in the pediatric intensive care unit and six weeks in rehab. William notes that Maleah’s grandfather recently said, “As bad as it was, it couldn’t have turned out any better.”

According to her mom, “Maleah is an inspiration to others. She is living proof of what is possible after this kind of trauma. She is a Kid’s Captain of inspiration, of hope, and of survival.”

She adds, “We are very lucky that UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital is so close. They saved our daughter’s life.”

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