Road to Recovery: Greene County girl survives near-drowning

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - Ten minutes changed their lives forever. The Weatherford family of Paragould spent months away from home in hospitals and hotels as their youngest daughter recovered from a near-tragedy.

Tonight, the Weatherford's share their story and show how a lot of faith and determination brought their daughter back from the brink of death.

"There's the little thing that we take for granted every day that we won't take for granted anymore," Jason Weatherford told Region 8 News.

For the Weatherford family, every moment has become more precious than words can describe. Whether it's a pick-up basketball game between their daughters, 11-year-old Carlee and 7-year-old Kinlee or watching Carlee patiently help Kinlee learn to spell her name again.

They're moments that they weren't sure they'd have nearly five months ago.

"We can see now how close we were to not having her...a normal life," Jason said.

Exactly what happened on September 4, 2013, the Weatherfords will never know, aside from the fact that it changed their lives forever.

Their then 6-year-old daughter Kinlee nearly drowned after they believe she had a seizure in the bathtub. The moments before and after her accident are ingrained in their minds forever.

"I was in the office, working on some paperwork, and I told Jason that I was really glad that day was one of the days I actually stopped to listen to what she was telling me," mom Carla said. "She had found some honeysuckle and she was bringing it in and she held it open and she was like 'it smells so good.'"

One brief moment Carla is glad she didn't take for granted, as shortly after that they found Kinlee submerged in the tub.

Jason immediately began CPR as Carla called for help. 

Kinlee, was then air-lifted to Le Bonheur as the Weatherfords just prayed she was alive.

"In the darkest of moments and when things are the bleakest and there doesn't seem like there's any hope...there is hope," Jason said.

They shared that hope through Facebook. Milestones, big and small, that Kinlee had made.

"Three or four weeks into Le Bonheur when she smiled for the first time," Jason recalled. "That was a big thing, just to have her smile."

Because Kinlee suffered a traumatic brain injury, she had to relearn all the basics.

Her first words since her accident were the break-through they'd been waiting for.

"When she said "mom" for the first time, we were probably six and a half to seven weeks into since we'd been able to hear her voice," Jason explained.

There were frustrating and trying moments, but Kinlee's determination kept moving her forward.

"They pretty much told us that was going to be her best attribute through this whole process was that she's not going to settle for anything less than getting back to 100%," Jason said.

Though intensive therapy started at Le Bonheur, Kinlee soon moved to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta to continue daily in-patient therapy. The family, deciding it'd be best to stick together through Kinlee's recovery.

"I think that was a big turning point in Kinlee's recovery and also our recovery as a family," Carla said.

Especially since they were reuniting Kinlee and Carlee.

"Carlee would be there at every therapy. She was there holding, encouraging, whatever it took," Jason recalled.

The Weatherfords were together as a family for a very stressful time in their lives, while back at home, the community came together to support and encourage the Weatherfords.

"I think just having that extra support, that it wasn't just the four of us that were pushing and helping Kinlee get better," Carla said. 

"We'll never be able to thank them enough, they got us through the most difficult of times," Jason told Region 8 News.

While they admit, the hard times are far from over, they're getting there.

"What was normal before, is not going to be normal now," Jason explained. "We have to figure out what the new normal is."

Kinlee's accident and recovery has helped them become closer and grateful for every single moment.

"This has helped us definitely refocus that our kids are our priority," Carla said.

Kinlee is back at home and back at school. She does, however, have a lot of therapy and recovery ahead of her. Doctors say it could be a couple of years before they know if Kinlee will recover 100% from her accident. Her parents, however, confident that she will.

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