Traumatic brain injury survivor donates inspirational art to new neurosurgery ICU

Traumatic brain injury survivor...

MADISON, Wis. - Jenna Preston, 21, said she wouldn't be alive today without the help of the staff in the Neurosurgery Intensive Care Unit at the UW Hospital in Madison.

Last March, the longtime basketball fanatic was watching the University of Wisconsin Badgers in the Sweet 16 game with friends. She said she went to look for the bathroom and she fell down a flight of stairs. 

"I was bleeding out of the back of my head ... from that, I don't remember much," said Preston.

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville junior was airlifted to the UW Hospital for emergency surgery to stop brain bleeds on both sides of her head. A piece of her skull was removed and titanium mesh was inserted to reduce swelling. 

Preston was put in a medically induced coma for two weeks.

"It was so sad to see her in this situation so you wanted to root for her. You wanted to give her the best-ever care. You wanted her to pull through," said Genevieve Nicol-Sey, Preston's nurse.

Preston opened her eyes to a room full of pictures of cows from the dairy farm she grew up on in Illinois.

Nicol-Sey said there were so many, they started putting them on the ceiling.

"It was kind of like a motivation to get back to doing what I always did my entire life, taking care of cattle as well as talking about agriculture," said Preston. 

But she still had a long road to recovery. Preston was paralyzed on the right side of her body and could only say a handful of words.

After another surgery and months of rehab in Illinois, she is back in school, working toward a major in agriculture business with a emphasis in communication and marketing. 

She brought one of the pictures of a calf to the UW Hospital to hang it in its new neuroscience ICU that opens Tuesday. 

The unit is moving another section of the hospital with 18 rooms instead of 16. And each room is now 320 square feet instead of 220 square feet. 

"This unit will provide more rooms, larger rooms, better technology and really a state of the art facility for them," said Liz Douglas, UW Health vice president of facilities and support services.

The updates will give some of the hospital's most critically injured patients more room for their families, additional safety features and new technology.

Each room comes with an extra monitor, a couch that converts to a bed for family and a window for nurses to keep an eye on each patient.

The cow photo, signed by Preston, will hang in the hallway. 

"This is a great inspirational story," Nicol-Sey said of the photo. "This will give families hope. It will give young kids hope. That's what we are about. And no matter what you're going through, know that it is very possible to survive this."

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