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Eight-Year-Old Inspires Family and Care Team with Determination in Recovery

SVH 475 x 285 Amyah

Billings, MT - With support from the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation, young patient was provided with an all-terrain wheelchair to allow for access and mobility

After nearly two years of recovery and more than 40 surgeries and procedures, Amyah Mullendore-Rodriguez is excited to start school in-person this fall and get back to being an active, energetic third grader.

On November 23, 2019, Amyah and her family were involved in a serious car accident in Billings and she was taken to St. Vincent Healthcare by first responders. After being stabilized at the hospital, Amyah and her brother were immediately life-flighted to Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah because of the seriousness of their injuries. Tragically, Amyah’s brother passed away due to his injuries.

The extent of Amyah’s injuries was substantial, including injuries to her spinal cord, kidneys, spleen, pancreas, and intestines. Due to the multiple procedures necessary to save her life, Amyah spent several weeks in ICU with an open abdomen. Amyah would spend the next four months at the hospital in Salt Lake City, under the care of Dr. Katie Russell, pediatric surgeon, and her team.

“I generally have a patient every year that really strikes me,” said Dr. Russell. “Through all of the operations, her attitude was remarkable. She was such a trooper.”

Although she was able to return to Billings in February 2020, Amyah was left paralyzed from the waist down and would need to return to Salt Lake City the following July for an additional 12-hour surgery to reconstruct her abdomen.

Amyah has been able to continue her recovery and rehabilitation in Billings, in coordination with Dr. Russell, because of St. Vincent Healthcare’s partnership with Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital and the University of Utah. Dr. Russell is one of 10 pediatric surgeons that provide 24/7 access to pediatric surgical services at St. Vincent. As part of her rotation, Dr. Russell travels to Billings several weeks each year to see her patients, like Amyah, and provide emergency and scheduled pediatric surgical services.

‘She is not afraid of anything’

Coping with the grief of her loss and learning to support Amyah in her continued recovery, Michelle Slimick, Amyah’s grandmother and guardian, has worked closely with Dr. Russell and the pediatric team at St. Vincent to meet Amyah’s needs as a developing and spirited child. One of the initial challenges for Amyah was mobility.

Living on a property in the Bull Mountains with her grandparents, a standard wheelchair didn't provide the freedom that Amyah’s care team and family wanted for her.

“When I was in Billings, the family invited me to dinner at their home,” said Dr. Russell. “Seeing this unique environment and knowing what she loves to do, I didn’t want her to have limitations.”

The family mentioned to Dr. Russell that they were looking at purchasing an off-road wheelchair, but were unsure if they could afford it. Dr. Russell contacted the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation to find out if there was an opportunity to support the cause. The Foundation worked with the family to coordinate an effort to raise the money needed to purchase the wheelchair. Additional support to reach the goal was provided by friends and family.

Amyah received the wheelchair in May and it has opened the door for a busy and active daily life, primarily driven by Amyah’s spirit and determination. In addition to ongoing swimming and equine therapy, Amyah’s has recently enjoyed outdoor summer activities, including floating on the Yellowstone River. She will be back attending school in-person as a 3rd grader at Elder Grove School this fall.

“This little girl is amazing. Even though she can’t move her legs, she believes she can do anything,” said Dr. Russell. “ With this new wheelchair, I want her to be able to do everything she wants.”

I also really appreciate her family. With their love and support, Amyah is able to have a fulfilled life.”

“She is not afraid of anything,” said Slimick. “She is my inspiration everyday.”

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About SCL Health

SCL Health is a faith-based, nonprofit healthcare organization dedicated to improving the health of the people and communities we serve. Founded by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth in 1864, our health network provides comprehensive, coordinated care through eight hospitals, more than 180 physician clinics, home health, hospice, mental health, and safety-net services in Colorado and the Montana Wyoming region.