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To remove the largest pieces of shrapnel from Jessica's brain, neurosurgeon Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Poffenbarger had to perform a craniectomy—he removed almost half of her skull. Then, on the hopes that the right section of Jessica's skull could one day be reattached, Poffenbarger sliced open Jessica's abdomen and placed the four-inch bone inside her body.

Then Dr. Poffenbarger put Jessica in a medically induced coma in hopes that the brain swelling would go down, a common course of action for severe head trauma patients. Even though some of his colleagues thought she should be sent home to die, he refused to give up and insisted Jessica have further treatment. While she was still in a coma, Jessica was transported back home. Her mother was told that the prognosis was grim.

Jessica has been called a "miracle girl" because after four months with nearly half her skull missing, three months in the hospital and nine months in outpatient care, she has recovered from her injuries. Though she doesn't remember anything of the explosion, she does remember having part of her skull in her abdomen. "The top portion of it was up by my lower ribs," Jessica says. "If I'd move a certain direction, the bottom part of it would touch my hip bone. It was very uncomfortable."
FROM: The Secret Language of Babies
Published on September 23, 2008


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