Kennewick teen Cassidy Almquist home from hospital

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldAugust 16, 2013 

Cassidy Almquist Birthday

Cassidy Almquist, center, and her parents, Kari and Mark Almquist share their thoughts and feelings Friday evening about when they returned home earlier this week to their Kennewick home after spending about a month at a Seattle hospital. Cassidy, who was celebrating her 18th birthday Friday, was seriously injured in a fall while at a church camp.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Cassidy Almquist turned 18 on Friday, two days after her parents brought her home in a rented van big enough to fit her new wheelchair.

The plan was to have a low-key day. Mark and Kari Almquist said their daughter needed to catch her breath after spending a month at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center following a serious fall from a swing.

The day wasn't without surprises, though.

Along with the 18 colorful balloons provided by her family, Cassidy had a new feeling of pain in her right hip. Her mom and dad were excited about that, as it provided more hope their daughter will regain use of her legs.

Cassidy, occasionally grimacing from the pain, agreed it was a birthday gift, of sorts.

"Not a very good one," she said.

The Southridge High School student and her family said they remain grateful for everything the community has done to help, from raising tens of thousands of dollars to renovating the Almquist home to accommodate Cassidy's wheelchair.

But adversity awaits. Weeks of therapy, mobility limitations and, most of all, waiting to see how Cassidy's body responds.

"It's a new future," said Mark Almquist. "We're hoping she'll be able to walk but we have to put that in a one- to two-year window."

Cassidy fell more than 40 feet from a rope swing at an Eastern Oregon church camp July 15. She fractured her pelvis, broke her right leg and crushed her right elbow and lower vertebrae. Surgeons have rebuilt her elbow with metal wires and plates and inserted a rod into her leg.

Both parents stayed in Seattle as she recovered, a process Kari Almquist said could go from celebration to dread instantly.

She said the family was celebrating that Cassidy wouldn't need surgery to repair her pelvis when a doctor came in and said she was reacting badly to medication and could have a serious liver disease, a concern that ended up being nothing.

"It was a roller coaster. Always up and down, up and down," her mother said.

The trip back to the Tri-Cities also was stressful. Cassidy became carsick not long after leaving the hospital. But the family said they were overcome when they drove by Calvary Chapel on Clearwater Avenue, where Cassidy is a youth group leader, and saw hundreds cheering her return.

Even more people waited at the family's west Kennewick home. A banner above the garage welcomed her home.

"When we rounded the corner, we could see people all the way up the driveway," Mark Almquist said.

Cassidy and her parents then had their first glimpse of the renovations made to the house.

The new wheelchair-accessible ramp to the front door. The bathroom with a walk-in shower, accessible sink and a wide door that slides shut and resembles a rustic barn door. A ground floor bedroom with a new wider doorway covered in messages from her church family.

"Everything is perfect," Cassidy said.

Returning home didn't mean returning to normal, though. Cassidy has to be helped when moving from lying down to her wheelchair and vice versa. Her parents help her with light physical therapy, stretching her arms and legs.

She can't stay in the same position long, having to be shifted every couple of hours at night, and even leaned back in her wheelchair to ease pressure on her lower body.

But Kari Almquist said there have been blessings too. Cassidy has recovered more quickly than doctors expected. They credited the weightlifting she did last year in school for giving her the strength she needs. Along with the new hip pain, she has a new tingling sensation in her feet and even can move her knees a bit.

Next comes months of rigorous physical therapy. Cassidy will return to Seattle in two to three weeks to strengthen her elbow. Then she'll come back home and wait for her leg and pelvis to heal before heading back for more therapy.

The family knows it will be rough. But they're taking it one day at a time.

And even though they are postponing a formal birthday celebration, they still marked the day.

A family friend brought a donated meal from Carmine's in Kennewick. And then there was the vase of red and white roses on the dining room table from Cassidy's boyfriend, Jantzen Filbrun. She said she never had received flowers from a boy before.

"I don't know if I really said anything," Cassidy said, recalling when the 17-year-old came by earlier in the day. "It was really sweet."

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