April Bressler celebrated Thanksgiving 2001 like all other 14-year-olds with turkey, friends, family and making plans for Christmas. Little did she know that on Dec. 1 her world would be turned upside down and she would be facing life and death.
April, a ninth grade student at Manila Junior High school, suffered major head trauma, severe burns on her leg, and other injuries in a car accident on Dec. 1.
She was airlifted to the Med in Memphis where she remained in intensive care for over a month.
April awoke on Dec. 24 and was moved to Children's Hospital in Little Rock on Jan. 16. She continued to improve and was moved to Timber Ridge Ranch, a neurological rehabilitation facility in Benton, where she underwent advanced therapy. She arrived home on July 16 in time to celebrate her 15th birthday on July 30.
It was a difficult year for April and her family but she looked forward to returning to school after missing the last five months of her eighth grade year.
"The school year is passing fast," April said. "I am having to do a lot of catching up at school. At Timber Ridge I learned to take the word 'can't' out of my vocabulary."
She admits that at times she gets frustrated but said she has a lot to be thankful for. At first, she had trouble with her short-term memory and is working on that. She has found the best therapy is to go over anything a thousand times.
"Eventually, I will remember it," she said.
"I am alive and not in the hospital. My leg looks bad but, thank goodness, it is here and it gets me where I want to go," she said.
April is undergoing physical therapy three times a week, occupational therapy once a week and speech therapy twice a week. She receives her therapy at school. With her schoolwork and therapy, she stays busy. She will begin counseling Dec. 3 in Blytheville.
April played on the junior high basketball team before her accident and always enjoyed sports. She still can't run because of her leg injuries, but she is serving as manager for the junior high team.
She plans to be in the Mississippi County FFA Pageant to be held in Manila on Dec. 5. She said she is a little nervous about it, but again she refuses to say "I can't."
Her mother, Tina Wells, is also very proud of her daughter's recovery.
"They gave us little hope during the first weeks," Wells said.
Mother and daughter agree that the best advice is never to take life for granted and be thankful for every day."