Lana Kisslinger had just finished her serving shift at Earls Tin Palace in Edmonton when her life changed forever. As she crossed Jasper Avenue in a marked crosswalk, she was hit by a car.
That was July 9, 2014. The City of Edmonton installed traffic lights in that location a year later. Lana’s recovery has taken much longer.
At the time of the crash, Lana was a 19-year-old NAIT business student. She suffered a fractured pelvis and a severe brain injury.
“We were told if she survives, the best-case scenario is a long-term care facility,” Lana’s mother Colleen Kisslinger said.
After three surgeries, including one to remove part of her skull to relieve brain swelling, Lana was unresponsive for 11 days.
“The neurosurgeon got really close to Lana’s ear and shouted, ‘Lana give me a thumbs up!'” Colleen recalled.
“Her thumb came up and we knew there was some brain activity at that point… That was a great day.”
Less than two months later, Lana was transferred from the University of Alberta Hospital to the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital.
“When I first met Lana, she wasn’t able to sit unsupported, she wasn’t able to stand, walk or even talk,” physiotherapist Lauren Richardson said.
“We were working on things like eye contact… listening when someone was talking, looking to a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ on a board,” speech language pathologist Trina Wetter explained.
For three years, at both the Glenrose and the Halvar Jonson Centre for Brain Injury, Lana worked every day to overcome her injuries.
Today, the former goalie still has issues with balance and strength, but she can walk short distances with two canes. And she recently managed to do a speech at her childhood bible camp.
“I miss quite a bit, but I’ve adapted to this life now,” Lana told Global News.
She’s now 22 years old and doesn’t remember much of the past few years, except that she sometimes couldn’t picture her future.
“I just couldn’t see myself really living out of the hospital.”
Despite that, she pushed through her therapies.
On Oct. 2, her Glenrose medical team will present her with an Award of Courage at their annual ceremony.
“Often, we think about courage in these big, bold acts, but Lana has showed courage every day for the last three years,” Wetter said.
Lana says the award is motivating.
“I was at the gym… like, ‘Well, I’m getting a Courage Award. I have to do this even harder!'” she laughed.
“I’m just happy to be here, on earth, because technically I wasn’t supposed to be on earth for very long.”