See also: Kim’s interview from 1991
Twenty-nine year-old Kim Sampson was seriously injured in an automobile accident in Louisville on Saturday, October 18, 2003.
This web page was created by her friends, when she had not yet regained consciousness more than a year later.
The injuries Kim sustained during the collision knocked her unconscious and fractured her pelvis. She was cut from the vehicle and transported by helicopter to University of Louisville Hospital. Life support systems were connected to her, in addition to tubes to drain fluid from her head.
Eleven days after the accident, her condition was upgraded from critical to serious, she overcame a bout with pneumonia, and she began breathing without the assistance of machinery. A couple days later, a tracheotomy was performed and her doctors decided to allow her hairline pelvis fractures to heal naturally.
On November 5, 2003 at 9:00 pm, many of her friends, regardless of location, observed a simultaneous moment of thought and prayer for her.
Although still in a coma, Kim’s condition improved to the point where she was able to be moved from the Medical Intensive Care Unit to the Patient Care Unit.
After an MRI was completed, it was discovered that Kim had suffered a diffuse axonal injury to her brain. This is a very serious injury with an unknown prognosis. Each person’s degree of recovery is different. The neurosurgeons working with Kim indicated that her age, health and observed eye movements were good signs for her potential recovery.
Kim was moved from University Hospital on November 12, 2003, to Christopher East Health Care Facility on Browns Lane in Hikes Point. Christopher East is primarily a nursing home but also houses a facility called Pathways that specializes in working with people with brain injuries.
Both of her feet were put in casts up to her calves to prevent foot drop, a condition that occurs when the muscles are not being used and the foot will actually drop down. The casts keep the feet in a flexed position like they would be if being used for normal walking.
The staff at Pathways began daily physical therapy which includes getting her out of bed and moving her around. This stimulates her muscles and prevents atrophy. One Sunday, Kim was returned to University Hospital due to difficulty in breathing, but returned later the same evening.
In late November 2003, Kim began showing more signs of movement; opening an eye, slight smirks, moving her arms toward visitors, seeming to respond to voices, and rapid eye movement. Despite this, doctors considered her to be at Level 1 of 10 on the Rancho scale, a method of rating the stages of cognitive improvement for patients with brain injuries.
On December 3, 2003, a forum was held with Dr. Burton, a neuropsychologist, to answer questions for Kim’s friends and family. The doctor indicated that previous MRI’s had shown brain swelling and that subsequent MRI’s would hopefully show how she’s improving. Based on clinical and academic research, most of the natural recovery occurs in this six-month timeframe, but there is not a definitive timeframe for any long-term recovery.
There is no way of giving reasonable odds as to a patient’s potential improvement, from waking up to leading a normal life. Each case is highly variable and it’s really a matter of wait-and-see. The longer a patient stays the way she is, the more likely it is that she will remain that way.
At the forum, Dr. Burton provided three possible recovery scenarios:
1. Kim returns to her life, pre-injury, unscathed. This is highly unlikely – think miraculous.
2. She stays exactly like she is right now for the rest of her life. This is also highly unlikely.
3. If Kim is like most people with brain injury, she will show some signs of recovery, but the extent of that is still unknown.
At this point, there is no way to tell what her abilities will be when she wakes up. Dr. Burton said that she probably won’t remember this part of her recovery at all. She won’t remember being in the hospital or her time at Pathways. Basically, the extent of her damage cannot be judged from the physical impact, only on her future cognitive abilities.
As 2004 began, the Pathways staff continued to monitor her behavior, give her stimulus, and keep her body functioning and mobile. Her right eye was opening and responding to light, but not focusing on anything nor tracking objects.
On February 11, 2004, Kim was having seizures and was transferred to the intensive care unit of Baptist Hospital East where her condition was stabilized.
A family meeting on March 10, 2004, produced the information that Kim is no longer considered to be in a coma state, but rather in a vegetative state.
She has an increased startle response. She had both eyes open, but the doctors were not able to get her to track something.
According to her occupational therapist, Kim’s arms were better, they were not so tight and she had an increased response to cold and more hand movement. In therapy, they were placing her on her stomach, where she seemed to be more comfortable, and it relieved a lot of her secretions and congestion.
She continued to respond locally to stimulation. She had a swallow response that, along with her decrease in secretions, allowed the doctors to downsize her trache.
They were still looking for repeatable responses to commands – one of their main objectives.
At this time, Kim’s dad, Terry, who was also injured in the accident, was undergoing physical therapy in order to get back the strength and flexibility in his shoulder.
A benefit concert was held on Friday, March 12, 2004, at the Kentucky Theater on Fourth Street. Kim’s friends performed in the bands Shipping News, Parlour, Verktum and Joe Manning. Nearly $2500 was raised at this show and contributed to assist with medical costs.
On Monday, March 21, Kim moved to a new facility, the Westminster Terrace Healthcare Center, 2116 Buechel Bank Road in Louisville (502 499-9383) in Room 240.
On April 30,2004, Kim’s sister Susan reported that Kim had responded to her and her husband Matt on three separate occasions between January and March. The first time, they asked her over and over for her to touch her nose, and after trying and gradually getting closer and closer, she finally did!
Next, Susan and Matt asked her to touch her chin, and she did that after a while, too. A few weeks later, they asked her to touch her fingers together, and after trying a few times, she did. They didn’t mention any of this for a while, because they thought two times in two month’s time didn’t really count for much, since the doctors kept saying it had to be repeatable.
There were many times when they tried to get her to do it again, and it just wasn’t registering, or she was often too sleepy, from the brain injury itself and from all the side effects of the medicines she was on, like the muscle relaxers and anti-seizure medication.
Kim had some seizures in March, and returned to Baptist East for about a week while doctors made sure she was getting the right medication in the correct amounts. She then had a milder episode of seizures in mid-April and went to the hospital again, where they also treated her for a lung infection.
From time to time, in March and April, she would also touch her
index finger and thumb together asked to. She also has clenched her fingers together or opened her hand, each sometimes as a yes or no response. The “yes or no” part doesn’t happen often, but at least it’s a start, and at least it looks like she can understand some of what is said.
Susan said that when Kim first moved into Westminster Terrace, she went through a week- or two-long period of being quite sleepy and unresponsive, with her eyes closed most of the time. After that, she had been opening her eyes more and more, and responding more and more by moving her fingers when they asked her to (still not every time), and sometimes touching her thumb and forefinger together.
She usually opened her left eye, sometimes her right eye, and sometimes both. She may have been focusing briefly on objects; it was hard to tell, but the doctor at Pathways confirmed this. She still wasn’t doing any tracking.
Matt went to see her almost every evening after work, and sometimes on the weekends. Matt and Susan tell her that although many of her friends can’t be there as often as they would like, they are doing other things to help, and think about her and pray for her all the time. They also read to her, showed her pictures and videos, and told her what was going on with her friends, family, stuff around Louisville, and things in the news. They also showed her their footage of Thunder Over Louisville, and some stuff from the day of the Derby that was on TV.
Kim was participating in daily physical and occupational therapy sessions at Pathways, but had to leave there temporarily because she wasn’t making enough progress in it for Medicare to keep paying for that type of care. They said she can come back anytime she starts doing something consistently. Family members learned how to do basic “range of motion” routines for her joints from a nurse’s aid at Westminster Terrace, and do that for her sometimes.
Westminster Terrace is equal to Pathways in terms of care, and she was able to get therapy again, although it isn’t as intense as at Pathways. She had to wait a few more weeks until the special wheelchair her parents ordered came in, before she could start therapy again. The chair tilts back and has a head support and restraint, like the ones at Pathways.
On September 18, 2004, Kim’s 30th birthday, her family took her outside in her wheelchair for the first time, in the sun and the beautiful fall day around 2:00pm.
Her sister Susan reported, “Not much has changed. Just a few more seizures, which are controlled for now by more medication. The one-year anniversary of the accident is a month from today. Her doctors will probably say at that point that there is little or no chance for recovery. The last option we may have is to send her to a research center that does stem-cell therapy and/or surgery. There is one such place we’ve found, at www.brainrepair.ca. It is in Canada, but I’m sure we’ll be able to get some money together to send her there. We still have yet to email them and tell them about her case, and to find out if they have any active studies in the works on humans. The treatment may help her as well as others in her condition, or only help others. We would be happy with either alternative.”
Eight months later, in June 2005, Kim’s condition worsened. She was moved from Westminster back to the hospital. She had a terrible infection that her body was unable to fight off and was running a temperature of 107. Her blood pressure was dropping each hour and she was not expected to hold on for more than a couple more days, a week at the most. She wasn’t in any pain, and although she was still experiencing seizures, the doctors were working to control those as best they could and were keeping her comfortable with pain medicine.
This had been a very long, difficult journey since October 18, 2003 – and Kim’s body had fought off numerous infections. It is amazing some days that she lasted this long. As her father Terry said while we were standing next to her bed, “It is time for her to go home.”
On July 5, 2005, Kim was moved to Hospice care. They have incredible people working there and they were making sure that she had music playing for her at all times, that Guiding Light was turned on at 3pm and at that she was not experiencing any pain.
In the early morning hours of Thursday, July 14, 2005, around 2:00 am, our dear friend Kimberly Jean Sampson passed away.
Services were held at Resthaven (4400 Bardstown Road in Buechel, 502-491-5950), with visitation from 1-8 pm Saturday, July 16.
Her funeral service was held at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 17, also at Resthaven, followed by cremation.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Home of the Innocents or Hospice & Palliative Care of Louisville.
Her obituary appeared in Louisville’s Courier-Journal on Friday, July 15, 2005.
Kim’s description of herself from summer 2003:
I’m an energetic and grounded girl that is really comfortable with who she is. I like to surround myself with positive, humorous and fun people…because that describes me.
I enjoy watching most sports, especially NCAA basketball/football and sometimes Indy car racing. I love to be outside – either being active or enjoying a cold beer. I also like watching a wide variety of movies and listening to a wide range of music.
Kids are really important to me and I hope to earn a master’s degree that will allow me to work with them as a therapist. For now, my job is really demanding, so I like to relax and have fun on the weekends. I travel a lot as a corporate trainer. It’s exciting to see the country, but I truly enjoy being home with my friends and family.
I have a group of close friends and I treasure the time I’m able to spend with them.
Hobbies and Interests:
Outdoor stuff (tennis, basketball-cards#1), etc.), Naps, Weekends, Music, Friends, Drinking, Dancing
Mole People, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Milkrun, lots of magazines
Caddyshack, Good Will Hunting, Dazed and Confused, Friday, 9 to 5, John Hughes Movies, The Jerk, Better Off Dead, Kramer vs. Kramer, Door to Door (this was amazing).
In my cd player right now: Dagnasty / In my tape player right now: Cooler
Favorite TV Shows:
Sex in the City, 6 feet under, Must see TV, The Today Show, I’m a little ashamed that I’m into the OC right now…nah.
Happy, sweet, funny (a little crazy/silly sometimes), hard-working, loyal, and sometimes too critical and picky (I’m working on this).