Community rallies around Harpswell girl, 6, after ski accident
HARPSWELL — A 6-year-old girl is in intensive care after a skiing accident nearly took her life last week.
Jessica Walker sustained three skull fractures and brain trauma when she crashed into a tree while on a March 25 family skiing trip at Sugarloaf Mountain, according to her aunt, Liz Simpson.
"The most important message for us is we want to make sure people wear their helmets, because helmets save lives," Simpson said Monday. "That helmet saved Jessica's life."
Simpson said Jessica has already been making "very purposeful movement" at the intensive care unit of Maine Medical Center in Portland, but there is a long road to recovery ahead.
"It's like a marathon and she's just putting on her sneakers," Simpson said.
Because Walker is still taking sedatives, Simpson said, it's hard to accurately know the extent of her brain injuries.
During one visit, Simpson asked Walker to give her a thumbs up.
"She didn't completely pick her thumb up, but she wiggled it. That's great positive movement," Simpson said. "When her mom and dad come in, she watches them very closely. And she gets excited to see her brother there."
Eventually Walker will be moved to the hospital's rehabilitation center, where she will remain for "quite some time," Simpson said.
While her family stands by Walker around the clock, the local community is banding together to help the family with mounting medical expenses.
Simpson said the family won't know its total medical costs for a while, but guesses that Walker's LifeFlight helicopter ride alone will cost $12,000.
On Friday at 5:30 p.m., a benefit spaghetti supper will be held at Harpswell Community School. Most of it is being organized by friends and family via a Facebook page launched last week to support the Walker family.
So far, the "Jessica Grace Walker - Road to Recovery" Facebook page has gained 482 "likes" and 96 people have RSVP'd for Friday's event.
The Fishing Families for Harpswell group is also accepting donations for the Walker family at its mailing address: PO Box 465, Harpswell, ME 04079.
While the Facebook page is being used to gather financial support for the Walker family, it's also being used as a way to provide daily updates on the girl's recovery.
"A great day of progress for Jessica," said a Facebook update on Sunday. "She is opening her eyes and responding in very basic ways (a toe wiggle or a head nod) to those around her. She is not talking yet, but that too will come with time. Just seeing those beautiful blue eyes many times today is enough to keep us all going strong."
Simpson said the Walker family is very grateful for the outpouring of support from friends, family and the community. A LifeFlight nurse even visits her every time the nurse travels to Maine Medical Center.
"(Jessica) has touched so many people," Simpson said, "and it's because she's so strong and she's coming out of it."