A little girl is making some huge steps toward recovery after a freak accident left her in a coma more than a year ago. Thursday, the six-year-old hit a milestone at the Children's Center Rehabilitation Hospital. It was the news her family has been waiting for.
Inside one of the hospital therapy rooms, speech pathologist Jamie Hildenbrand works intensely with six-year-old Zamarie Whitfield, re-teaching her something as simple as swallowing food.
"With the improvement that she has made, it's been kind of slow and steady but she's also made really big steps," Hildenbrand explained.
It was a freak accident during Memorial Day weekend of 2013. Zamarie was playing on a parade float that her grandfather built. While she was getting off the float, a light somehow fell onto the metal chair Zamarie was holding on to. She suffered an electric shock that nearly killed her.
"She was gone," recalls mom Lakira Garrett. "They told me you know, her heart. She's not breathing. She's having a hard time. When they tell you something like that you do think maybe this is the end, please don't take her from me."
Zamarie laid in a coma for days at the hospital. Doctors said her outlook was questionable.
"Just [lying] there, not doing anything, not looking at you, not turning her head, I mean she couldn't move her arms or anything," Garrett said.
Zamarie beat the odds. Surviving and after a couple of weeks, she began to breathe without the help of a ventilator. Her parents made the decision to bring her to the Children's Center Rehabilitation Hospital for intense therapy. The team worked hard with Zamarie during the past year, trying to improve her life.
The long therapy sessions have been working, and Zamarie is slowly regaining basic functions.
"She's starting to laugh now and everything and you hear her," said Garrett. "She can't talk right now, but you can hear her, and I say that's Zamarie. I hear my baby in there, that's her voice."
The steady improvements mark the end of Zamarie's journey in the hospital and the beginning of a new chapter at home. Thursday afternoon, her mom was able to take Zamarie home.
"I'm excited. I get to take my baby home," said Garrett. "I look forward to that day when my baby will be running down the hall again."
Zamarie will continue therapy at a facility closer to her family's home. Hildenbrand said it is impossible to tell how far Zamarie will come but adds there are no set limits for what she will be able to achieve.