Previous Next
Lilliana L.

The end of one road and start of another.

On a brutally cold winter night near Boston, Massachusetts, a loan car barreled down a snow-covered road. As the street ended, only two options appeared – turn right or turn left.

The car took a sharp turn, careening right and losing traction as the tires squealed before slamming into a brick building. The unmistakable crunch of metal on brick settled into the air, followed by a silence so deafening that it muffled all other sounds. 

When the first responders arrived on the scene, they were horrified to find two of the occupants unresponsive, and one small child desperately trying to wake them up. 

Within the hour, April K. received a phone call that changed the course of her life forever. 

“They told me to get to the hospital as quickly and safely as I could, and when I got there, they had a family room waiting for me, so I knew it wasn’t good,” April said. “They told me my daughter and two grandchildren had been in a motor vehicle accident.”

Her daughter and mother of 7-year-old Lilliana and 6-year-old Jeremiah drove while under the influence and crashed her car, severely injuring herself and her two kids. The outcome was catastrophic. 

“Before the accident, I would see things like this in the news and be quick to assume that the person was an alcoholic and regularly putting themselves or others at risk,” April told us. “My daughter was a daycare teacher. She never drank, she never did drugs, she never did anything before this. But I have the unfortunate experience of realizing that it can be a one-time horrible decision with consequences that can change lives.”

All three were fighting for their lives, and Lilly and Jeremiah were especially lucky to be alive. Jeremiah was conscious for the duration of the accident, which is unthinkable and difficult to comprehend. Lilly required 20 minutes of life-saving resuscitation on the scene before she was stable enough to be airlifted to a larger trauma hospital.

When April met with doctors, they shared the grim news. Her daughter had a tear in her aorta and required emergency surgery to repair her intestines and damage caused by blunt force trauma. Originally, doctors thought Jeremiah was in shock but without serious injuries before realizing he had broken his C3, C4, and C5 vertebrae, and his left leg in three different spots. 

His brachial plexus nerve was injured, which caused lasting damage to his right hand. Jeremiah required the use of a medical halo to help heal his broken neck and spent months recovering. And those were just the physical wounds.

Somehow, Lilly was even worse. She sustained a traumatic brain injury, injured her spinal cord from C1-C4, suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain), and developed hydrocephalus (an abnormal buildup of fluid in the brain.)

She was flown to Hasbro Children’s Hospital for an emergency halo procedure before being sent to Franciscan Children’s for numerous follow-up procedures and surgeries, including the placement of a trach, ventilator, and g-tube. Lilly entered the hospital on December 10, 2021, and did not leave until November 2022.

“They said she wasn’t going to survive,” April told us. “The first hospital told us to shut the machines off, but I knew her brain injury hadn’t even worked itself out yet. I had to give her the opportunity. It’s a miracle because she was unresponsive for 20 minutes at the scene. Today, she’s still her in her head. She has the same sassy attitude and big smile, but she just can’t express herself the same verbally because of the ventilator.”

Before the accident, Lilly loved to be outside, create art, hang out at the zoo and beach, go to school, and spend time with peers and family. She still has the heart and desire to do those things today.

She still loves watching High School Musical and ZOMBIES: The Re-Animated Series (especially the green one, Zed, who is her personal favorite). She jams out to Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift, just like any other tween her age. 

It just looks different now with her injury and paralysis. 

After April’s daughter physically recovered from her injuries, she was incarcerated and April became the primary caregiver and guardian of Lilly and Jeremiah.

“My daughter will never recover mentally or emotionally from this,” said April. “You can’t take it back. No matter what, for the rest of her life, she’s going to look at those babies and beat herself up about it. It’s going to be a long process and a lot of therapy, but hiding it isn’t going to help her.

“You see it on TV or in the news, and I’ll be honest, if I was reading this about another family, I would think, ‘Oh my gosh, I would never speak to her again.’ But when it’s your own child, it’s not easy to say that. I know the person she is and the mother she was before this. I don’t want to raise Lilly and Jeremiah bitter and with anger and hate, because that’s what they’ll project into the world. And they love their mom. I’ll never replace her, I’ll just be Meemaw.”

April’s spent the last couple of years doing all she can to adjust to this new normal, and to find ways for her family to heal.

Lilly now requires the full-time use of an electric wheelchair and that in itself has completely upended their lives. Jeremiah and Lilly have always been exceptionally close, both in age – they’re separated by just 11 months – and in their love for each other. It’s been hard for Jeremiah to find his way forward without his sister constantly by his side.

They do not have a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, and Jeremiah isn’t permitted to ride in medical transport with his sister. 

“For the past 2 ½ years, she’s had medical transportation take her to the doctor and back and to school. She hasn’t been to the park, to the zoo, or the beach. She hasn’t even been able to go for a car ride,” April explained. 

“Lilly and Jeremiah were so used to doing everything together, it’s been hard for him. We have to push him to go to the park and when he comes back, we’ll say, ‘Did you have fun Jerry?’ And he’ll say, ‘I guess, but I wish Lilly was there.’”

Their pediatric palliative care coordinator, Sonia, watched this dynamic and it sparked an idea. She knew of Chive Charities through her work with other families in the Boston area, and she wondered if we might be able to help bring Lilly and Jeremiah back together again, and to support this family in this new chapter of their lives.

With Sonia’s guidance, April and her other daughter, Ruby (who has also been a huge support during this difficult time), completed an application for a wheelchair-accessible van for Lilly, hit submit, and said a prayer.

Chive Charities is only able to make life-changing grants possible because of our donors who selflessly support those in need with monthly donations ranging anywhere from $10 to $200 more a month. Because of those contributions, we were able to receive Lilly’s application and approve them for an ADA van from our friends and partners at AMS Vans

In just a few weeks, a white 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan will pull into April’s driveway and offer the freedom and independence Lilly deserves. The total impact was $42,270.

Not long ago, Lilly and Jeremiah were sitting side by side in another car, not aware that it would be their last ride together for more than two years. So many other things would change and evolve, but not their relationship. That road is behind them now, and a new one lies ahead. We’re so grateful to have met this incredible and resilient family and to see all that awaits them on this next journey.

There are few certainties in life, but one thing we know for sure – they’ll be in it together. 

If you’re not part of our amazing donor community, we invite you to be. Please make a one-time or monthly donation here and be part of our movement to make the world 10% happier. DONATE HERE.

Lilliana L.'s Updates

Check back soon for updates!