Jeffords family feels stronger one year after Allie's accident

WILLMAR -- Allison Jeffords is a fifth-grader who likes math, reading and dance. She's gone ice skating with friends a couple of times so far this winter.

WILLMAR -- Allison Jeffords is a fifth-grader who likes math, reading and dance. She's gone ice skating with friends a couple of times so far this winter.

All in all, her life is normal -- school, fun with friends, family activities -- but her parents and other adults in her life are learning they have to let the 11-year-old girl just be a kid.

That's a challenge for Chris and Jennifer, parents of Allison, 8-year-old Blake and 6-year-old Jack. Allie, as she's called by family and friends, was pinned under a huge chunk of ice last Christmas, spent about a month in a metro-area hospital and has had a series of surgeries to remedy the trauma to her head and brain.

"We've learned not to take anything for granted," Jennifer says. "We always say 'love you' and you make sure they (each of the children) hear you."

The family is definitely stronger now, Chris says, having traversed the challenges after the Dec. 25 accident along the shores of Lake Minnewaska. The family was celebrating Christmas in Glenwood last year and Chris and the boys had ventured out to the lake. Allie and a cousin followed. The children were playing in the ice heaves along the shoreline when a 5- by 6-foot section of ice that was 8 to 10 inches thick fell on Allie's head.


What followed was a whirlwind of activity. Five citizens helped lift the ice slab off Allie, she was taken by ambulance and then flown by helicopter to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. She came home to Willmar on Jan. 19, but still faced numerous doctor appointments, tests and therapy. The last surgery was in May to put a shunt to drain fluid from her brain.

Allie finally returned to school on a full-time basis this fall. She's allowed to do everything except contact sports like hockey, football and gymnastics. Her parents say other adults in her life are more protective and that they are learning to let her go and do the adventures of childhood.

"She has to be a kid," Chris says.

"We have learned you can only do the best you can. You have to let them be kids," Jennifer adds. "You have to have faith."

This Christmas, the Jeffords family is planning a completely different holiday, Jennifer says. They will travel to the Twin Cities, stay in a hotel and bring treats to medical professionals working at Hennepin County Medical Center.

"We understand how important those people who work on Christmas Day are," she says.

Allie has another CT scan set for February to check on the plate that fills the gap where surgeons removed part of her skull to alleviate pressure on her brain. She also needs to follow up with a hearing test.

The family will travel to Disneyworld in April for a week of fun, thanks to the fundraising efforts of a Glenwood man. Allie is looking forward to the rides, as she didn't get to go on any this summer during the local fairs.


Until then, the family will relish a normal life, with two busy working parents and three active kids in school. They still marvel and offer thanks at the support they received -- from their closest family and friends to complete strangers -- that helped them through the past year.

"You don't realize how their support helps you get through it," Jennifer says.

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