Sugei Banuelos, couldn’t help but smile as she waited for her daughter, Emery, 10, to finish her piano lesson. It’s hard for her to imagine that a year ago, Emery was in a coma and fighting for her life.

Emery and hospital staff

In May 2018, Emery was involved in a car accident that left her with broken bones and a major head injury. She was immediately rushed to MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach.

Emery arrived at the Trauma Center unconscious with a large hematoma (bump caused by a collection of blood) on her forehead. The trauma care team worked quickly to stabilize Emery, before getting a CT scan to assess the damage to her head and brain.

The results of the scan showed severe swelling on the right side of Emery’s brain. Her trauma surgeon and neurosurgeon placed her in a medically induced coma and began efforts to try to reduce the pressure caused by the swelling. After multiple attempts, the care team was unable to reduce the swelling and Emery had to undergo surgery to remove a piece of her skull to relieve the pressure on her brain.

The surgery was successful, and the pressure on Emery’s brain was reduced. Her loved ones and care team were relieved, and she was slowly brought out of her coma.

Emery and hospital staff

After her coma, Emery was having trouble speaking and moving and began rehabilitation as part of the full spectrum of care coordinated by the Trauma Center. A team was brought in to help Emery gradually regain her mobility and speech.

During her stay in the hospital, and throughout her rehabilitation experience, music played a huge role in Emery’s recovery.

“Before she could even move or talk again, we would play her favorite Beatles songs,” says Sugei. “Her dad would play his guitar at her bedside and Emery would light up. She would blink and try to smile. She’s always loved music and she was always singing and dancing. About a year before the accident, we signed her up for piano lessons and she fell in love.”

The Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Program at Miller Children’s & Women’s offers a Music Therapy Program whose music therapists took note of Emery’s love and response to music. They helped Emery on her recovery and gave her a sense of normalcy during her stay, not only getting her back on the piano, but helping Emery compose songs and explore new instruments.

Emery and hospital staff

In total, Emery spent 66 days in the hospital before she was discharged and allowed to continue rehabilitation from home. She enrolled in school in the fall and is now back to her everyday routine, including her piano lessons.

Emery and her family are planning on attending the 2019 Trauma Survivor’s Reunion and Emery has a special surprise for her care team. She’s going to perform an original song she wrote for them during her stay in the hospital.

“We are all really excited for Emery’s surprise performance,” says Stephanie Garcia, RN, trauma nurse clinician, Trauma Center, Miller Children’s & Women’s. “Emery’s hard work and positive attitude during her recovery, inspired everyone on the care team. It’s amazing to see how much she’s grown and improved in the past year.”

The Trauma Survivor’s Reunion allows former patients, families, care teams and emergency services to reconnect and share their stories.

“Emery has amazed all of us with her strength,” says Sugei. “She’s my champion. Despite everything she’s been through, her determination and spirit have held strong. No matter what obstacles have come her way she pushed through with a smile and a song.”

Emery and hospital staff

Emery and hospital staff

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