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Anna's Journey

September 15, 2012

Guymon paramedics and EagleMed flight crew move Anna Drake into a Guymon ambulance Thursday at Guymon Municipal Airport for the final leg of her journey home. Staff photo/Shawn Yorks

GUYMON — Thursday was a day Jeri Hambleton and the rest of Anna Drake’s family and friends at one time feared would never come. Anna, 31, of Guymon, was diagnosed with transverse myelitis in August 2011. The disease suddenly rendered the vibrant mother of 5 year-old Cade, a quadriplegic.

Anna was initially flown to Baptist St. Anthony’s Hospital in Amarillo, then to a facility in Okeene, Okla., then Enid, Bixby, Okla. and, finally last June, to Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colo., a Denver suburb.

“That’s all they do is rehab,” Hambleton said. “We would have lost her if we wouldn’t have gotten her to them.

“The family is happy to have Anna home and doing well,” Hambleton added. “Cade is excited his mom’s home, and it’s a great time of year because it’s everybody’s birthday — it’s her step-dad’s, her uncle’s, and her son’s will be soon.”

Transverse myelitis kills the myelin off the nerve endings in the neck, and attacked Anna at C-5, which is high on the neck. Anna underwent extensive physical therapy, and was also on steroid therapy and chemotherapy, all of which made Anna quite ill.

“Eventually it started making the muscles move,” Hambleton said. “She’s not moving them on her own. But she can pop in that button and talk, she’s off the ventilator, infection-free. We have come so far.”

Anna was unable to speak for most of the past year, and her family and friends had to read lips to understand what she was saying. That’s all changed now.

Anna can move one wrist really well, which she will use to operate her wheelchair when it arrives. She’s set up in a room at her mom’s house, with an attached apartment ready for her and Cade when she’s able.

Anna was baptized by Pastor Wayne Dawson of the Guymon Nazarene Church, while in Bixby. And Hambleton said since that time, positive things have happened.

“By the time I got home (from Bixby), we had set up plans for Craig,” Hambleton said.

And the Guymon community has rallied around Anna in so many ways, with fund raisers, support and prayers.

“I’ve never been so glad to be from Guymon in my life,” Hambleton said. “I thought I had a lot of friends, but that little girl has touched a lot of lives.

“We’ve had ups and downs, but we are very happy to be from Guymon, that everybody came to Anna’s aid. I need to thank those businesses, pastor Dawson for her Baptism. Those type of people that you don’t recognize until you are in the hospital with her and you see her.”

Wichita-based EagleMed transferred Anna three times, the last flight on Thursday was a donation flight.

“EagleMed is awesome, not only did they do the flights back and forth, they did it pro-bono,” Hambleton said.

Hooker-native Robert Pritchard was a flight medic on two of those flights, including Thursday’s return trip from Denver to Guymon.

“The way I found about it was our Public Relations director (Robbie Copeland) called me on Monday,” Pritchard said. “He had been contacted last week by Craig Hospital about bringing Anna home because of the distance of the transfer. He talked to the company president and director of operations and they decided it would be a good deal to bring her home.”

Pritchard, flight nurse Mike Clements and others with EagleMed said helping hometown people is why EagleMed is there.

“It’s a small town deal, it’s why we do what we do in the flight transport deal,” Pritchard said. “We all do this because we care about people in the area.”

He said that Guymon has a great hospital, but they can only do so much.

“We’ve got the best hospital we can afford,” Pritchard said. “There’s people that’s got to get out of there, anything that’s very major has got to get out there and to the right level of care as quickly as possible, and that’s why I all of us do what we do.”

And thanks to the level of care in Colorado and EagleMed getting her there, Anna’s future is bright.

“It’s just a matter of time with this disease on where she’ll go and how far it will take her,” Hambleton said. “Me, personally, as a mom, see this kid walking in a few years. We’ll never know what triggered it, we’ll never know how long it’s going to take. But I definitely see her progressing a lot more in the future. It’ll take awhile.”

Pritchard agrees that Anna’s future is a good one.

“Anna has to be a super strong person,” Pritchard said. “I would have given up in that situation. I don’t know how she made it as long as she did before we got her to Denver.”

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