Family remains strong after daughter’s stroke

May 11, 2013


“We know that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle,” said an emotional Tina Nickell as she looked back at medical issues that have hit her family. “But my cup is pretty full.”

The Acton area family first forged through medical issues and a car crash in Keene that nearly killed Tina’s husband, Grant, in August 2010.

“We didn’t know if he would make it,” Tina remembered. Grant spent about six months recovering.

But the world turned upside down for the Nickell family when daughter Jessica suffered a brain stem stroke on Oct. 2, 2011.

The once active Jessica Marie Nickell, 11, had enjoyed cheerleading, gymnastics and 4-H. She made straight-As on every report card at Acton Elementary School.

“She is still here,” Tina, a 1992 Granbury High graduate, said of her little girl. “She’s just in a body that doesn’t work. We’re a strong Christian family and just want the best for our children.”

Tina said Jessica wasn’t feeling well when she got up that fall morning some 19 months ago.

“She took a bath and went to lay down for a while,” Tina recalled. “Her dad went to check on her and found her unresponsive.”

Grant and Tina rushed their daughter to the emergency room, and she was taken by air ambulance from Lake Granbury Medical Center to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth.

Grandparents cared for Jessica’s brother, Andrew, 7, while Grant and Tina stayed at the hospital with their daughter.

After three weeks of hospitalization, doctors released the young girl.

“It seemed like they were sending her home to die,” Tina remembered.

She was given a feeding tube before leaving the hospital.

For the past 18 months, Grant and Tina have juggled their work schedules so that one parent is always at home with Jessica.

Tina is a nurse at a Fort Worth hospital, while Grant is working part time at a feed store.

“One of us needs to be with her at all times,” Tina explained.

Family members began to notice some improvements with Jessica after Christmas in 2011.

“She started to open her eyes,” Tina said. “When talking to her, we realized our child is still in this body.

“She knows all of us. She remembers when we took a family trip to Alaska several years ago,” Tina explained.

Grandfather Gary Floyd, a longtime Wiley Funeral Home employee, said Jessica can now indicate when she wants a hug.

“She’s a true fighter. One of her doctors said she’s an inspiration,” Floyd noted.

She shows emotion and sometimes laughs or cries.

“We are working on swallowing,” Tina said.

Jessica can’t walk, but is determined to achieve mobility with a walker.

“She has some use of her arms, but she can’t hold a pencil or things like that,” Tina said. “She can’t really move a lot.”

Jessica has a custom wheelchair that her mom must dismantle and store in the car when going to appointments.

“She’s pretty heavy for my daughter to lift in and out of the car,” Floyd noted.

A van equipped to handle a wheelchair would be great.

“But they are expensive,” Tina said adding that Jessica’s medical condition puts a strain on family finances.

“I know there are people out there who are worse off than we are,” Tina said. “Other people are struggling with medical issues, too.

“But it really would be nice if we could get a van.”

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