Kailey Giancola Keeps Kicking as She Begins Therapy at the Shepherd Center

Kailey Giancola and Pete. Photo by Becca Knopf via the EN archives.

Kailey Giancola, the 25-year-old eventer who suffered a severe brain stem injury in a horse-related accident on Dec. 16, is nothing if not a fighter, and her strength continues to be revealed in her recovery.

After initial admission to Ocala Regional Medical Center followed by three weeks in the Neurointensive Care Unit at the UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville, on Jan. 9 she was discharged and transferred to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta to begin rehabilitation. This signaled a huge step forward in her progress as she began therapy with the center’s skilled team of brain injury specialists.

Kailey’s brother, David, has been keeping family and friends posted via a Caring Bridge online journal here. From the first flickering of her eyes to all the physical and emotional mile-markers of moving through the stages of a coma, we are grateful to the Giancola family for sharing daily updates.

Since Kailey arrived at the Shepherd Center she has undergone initial baseline testing, begun speech therapy, visited with her first therapy dog, and was fit for a custom wheelchair with PT. The family is awaiting results from an MRI performed on Saturday to reveal another depiction of Kailey’s injuries, the results of which will help them obtain a more accurate prognosis for the future.

David’s latest update, from Sunday, Jan. 12:

Kailey has had a great day today as she demonstrated the ability to grasp and lift an object on-command for the very first time. Her strength and endurance continues to grow each and every day. She remains very active in all extremities but has been doing much better with little to no vast spikes in her vitals. It seems the neurostorming events that were rather prominent before have settled at least for the time being. Respiratory therapy was back again today and stated that Kailey has been doing much better with her respirations since the changes they had noticed when she first arrived. They feel that if progress continues, they should be able to completely wean her from the ventilator in 5-7 days. [Before leaving UF, Kailey was breathing unassisted for up to a 14-hour stretch.] The new imaging, MRI with contrast, that was requested yesterday has been completed, but due to the weekend, a specialist could not be consulted for a more in-depth interpretation until tomorrow.

You can read more updates and share well-wishes via the journal here. David writes, “We have created this site to share Kailey’s recovery story with the world as she demonstrates her resilience, unwavering determination and spirit to return the riding arena.”

You’ve got this, Kailey!

The eventing community continues to rally around Kailey in every way possible, including contributions to a GoFundMe set up to assist the Giancola family with medical bills. The fund is just $4,000 shy of its $50,000 goal — you can make a donation today here to help them cross that threshold. We hear some #RideForKailey saddle pads are in the works as well and we’ll let you know when those are available.

Go Kailey. Go Eventing.