Alyssa Dudley is a domestic violence survivor. On July 13, 2013, Alyssa's ex-boyfriend broke into her apartment with a .38 Special revolver in hand with one goal in mind... To find Alyssa. As he entered the apartment, Alyssa was in the kitchen and her friend was sitting on the living room couch. Her friend noticed right away the gun is his hand, "what are you doing?" As he went through the house asking where Alyssa was, her friend sent her daughter outside to safety.
Calling 911 for help, her friend heard the first gunshot, then another, and finally one more. Scared for her own safety, she hid under the staircase. She watched as he came down the stairs and as he passed he said, "she's dead, now we're down" as if he knew she was there. The girlfriend and her daughter made their way back up stairs to find the neighbor knocking on Alyssa's front door asking if everyone is alright. The door was left open to a crack and the neighbor opened the door to see Alyssa laying face down between the kitchen and dining area floor. He went inside knelt beside her and called 911. Turning her head to the side to help her breath until paramedics arrived.
Alyssa's parents were notified by the girlfriends daughter, using Alyssa's cell phone that Alyssa has been shot. Alyssa's parents took their 45 minute ride to the hospital not knowing the condition of their daughter. Not knowing how serious her injuries were. Not knowing if she was alive or dead. Arriving to the hospital, her parents met with the trauma team treating Alyssa and were explained that Alyssa had been shot 3 times. The most severe to the top of her head that had penetrated her brain. Neurosurgeons were going to have to take her into surgery to remove a piece of her skull to allow her brain swelling to expand outside of her skull. The trauma surgeons were going to have to perform exploratory surgery of her abdomen since one bullet entered her stomach region and exited just above her buttocks. This was done simultaneously.
At approximately 4:00 AM, after 5 hours of waiting, the surgical team emerged to explain that surgery was successful and there was no major damage to any of Alyssa's internal organs, except her brain. The neurosurgeon then explained that Alyssa has multiple bullet and bone fragments in her brain and they removed as much as they could without creating more damage to her brain. She is in critical condition and there is no prognosis for brain injuries. Some recover better than others. There is no measurement. He did explain however, that do to the location of the damage in her brain, Alyssa may never speak again. Most of the damage is located at the language center of her brain. Alyssa was transferred to NICU (Neuro Intensive Care Unit) and the waiting begins.
Alyssa is intubated, with a neck collar, a drain tube coming out of her head, wires, monitors, IV's everywhere her head wrapped in bandages and her face 3 times its normal size. She slept for 48 hours in a drug induced coma but on the 4th day her eyes would open. They would stay fixed to the left for weeks. Moving occasionally to the other side, but eventually back to the left. Several times a day, nurses would come in to assess her neurologically, asking her questions for responses. Alyssa had an automatic response to pain stimuli, but was unable to follow commands. After 14 days on a ventilator, doctors were preparing to put Alyssa on a longer term ventilator through her trachea, but decided to see if they turned off the ventilator if Alyssa would automatically breath on her own. Milestone reached, she did it. Following commands was still a challenge.
The 3rd week, Alyssa would be transferred to a step down unit called a Neuro progressive unit for close monitoring, but no longer critical. Alyssa did not know how to talk, how to eat, how to walk, or control her bodily fluids. She is now a baby in a 21 year old body. Physical Therapists would come in 2 or 3 times a week to sit Alyssa up on the side of the bed to assess her center of balance and head control. This seemed to return automatically, next was to get her to her feet. Wearing a helmet to protect her head, therapist would get her to her feet. With the right side of her body effected by the brain injury, Alyssa had no strength in her right leg. She could not even pick her foot up off the bed an inch at first. The more the therapists got her to stand the more strength she could build to pick her leg up. Then a Speech Therapist started coming in to access her speech. It was now 4 weeks since her injury and Alyssa has not made a sound. Her eyes are now open, following commands is better but she can't say a word. Alyssa is on a feeding tube since the therapist can't determine if she is swallowing correctly or if she is aspirating when swallowing. They used a dry erase board to communicate by pictures.
Slowly the words come back one by one, then a couple more. Alyssa was then transferred to an Acute Rehab department at the same hospital where she would start 6 weeks of daily Physical, Occupational, and Speech therapies. Though she still had to learn how to control her bladder and bowels, she would get up everyday and work as hard as they asked her to. Even on days when it was obvious she couldn't keep her eyes open, she would work as hard as she could.
One day it was noticed that Alyssa brain swelling was growing instead of going down. Neurosurgeons did a brain CT and discovered Alyssa was now suffering from Hydrocephalus, which is an accumulation of brain/spinal fluid around her brain not draining properly. She now has to have another surgery. To place a shunt in the ventricles to drain the excess fluid. This shunt is permanently implanting in her brain along with the bullet and bone fragments. Set back from recovery, but not for long.
After 6 weeks of intensive rehabilitation, Alyssa would be discharged home with her parents for the long journey ahead. By the time she was discharged she was now able to eat solid foods, but liquid still had to be thickened until she could build up her swallowing muscles, she was walking with a quad cane. Since she doesn't have any use of her right arm, a walker was not an option. She was speaking in short broken sentences.
Fast forward three years and Alyssa has made huge strides in her recovery. Her speech is fluent, though Aphasia is still present. She is walking unassisted and has no balance problems. She has regained some movement of her right shoulder, but from her elbow down she has no functional movement. Recently she has begun to move her fingers of her right hand that she has not been able to do since her injury. Though she suffers daily from excruciating headaches, she moves forward with that beautiful smile in her face. She has spells of vertigo or a "feeling like she's drunk" episodes but continues of her daily rituals of training her service dog, Gracie Lou. She continues to do her artwork using her non dominant left hand and enjoys making special pieces designed for each specific individual. She is a walking miracle and works so hard everyday to get her life back.