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A wonderful friendship Nursing home resident, volunteer share a unique companionship.
The Hutchinson News ^ | 4/06/09 | Clara Kilbourn

Posted on 04/06/2009 10:02:36 PM PDT by kathsua

The smiles on their faces mirror the sweetness of their newfound friendship.

For Sarah Scantlin, it's a Friday, the day her friend Stacia Thrash comes to visit. Thrash will do Sarah's makeup, and maybe they'll talk about what Sarah had for lunch.

In their hour together, they'll sing a song and read a story. Thrash, a volunteer through the Reno County Volunteer Center, will paint Sarah's fingernails.

Nancy Wilson, activity director at Golden Plains Health Care Center, wiped away the tear that rolled down her cheek as she watched the two women together - Thrash, 20, a sophomore at Hutchinson Community College, and Scantlin, 43, a resident at Golden Plains for the past 24 years.

"Having Stacia as her friend is a wonderful thing for Sarah." Wilson said.

As James and Betsy Scantlin begin the fourth year since their daughter spoke an "OK," her first words in 20 years, they're mindful of Sarah's day-to-day existence.

She remains alert, she's aware of designated activities and undergoes therapy, but for the past two years, she seems to have hit a plateau, James Scantlin said.

"It's as if she's at some kind of door and can't quite get through to the next level," he said.

On the positive side, he pointed to Sarah's new friend.

Three times a week - Monday, Wednesday and Friday - Thrash comes to Golden Plains to visit Sarah.

What makes their friendship special is that Sarah enjoys the companionship of someone about the same age as she was when she suffered the critical brain injury that left her disabled.

Fateful night

For Sarah and her parents, the light in their lives dimmed on Sept. 21, 1984.

Sarah was three weeks into her freshman year at Hutchinson Junior College where she had been named to the drill team.

A Nickerson High School graduate, she worked at Ken's Pizza but had recently landed a new job at Wiley's department store. After supper with two friends at Tapper's, a teen hangout on 11th Avenue, the girls headed back to the car, walking along the edge of the street.

Without warning, a drunken driver sped into their path and struck Sarah. The impact threw her over the hood of the car, and she suffered a critical brain injury.

At that moment, James and Betsy Scantlin's beautiful, bright, vivacious daughter was thrust into a coma. She was rushed to Wichita's Wesley Medical Center where she underwent surgery and remained for the next seven months. When her eyes finally opened, there wasn't anything there, just an empty stare. Her parents brought her back to Hutchinson. She was admitted to Golden Plains where she remained, physically disabled and unable to communicate.

In February 2005, Sarah uttered "OK."

Since then, she has undergone extensive therapies and surgeries aimed at progress in her physical and mental improvement. Over the past four years, Golden Plains residents have adopted Sarah, chatting when they meet in the halls or the activity room.

Pals

But the friendship with Thrash somehow has awakened something new in Sarah, James Scantlin said.

"When we tell Sarah that Stacia is coming, she becomes excited. She really likes Stacia," Wilson said.

His daughter remembers dates, but when asked her age, she starts with 18 and has continued up to 23, not 42 or 43, he said.

"It's uncanny that she has retained her long-term memory but doesn't have short-term memory to go with that," James Scantlin said. "Emotionally, she's still 18."

As she watches Sarah and Stacia interact, she sees that they both pretty much live in the same mind-set, Wilson said.

"There's something spectacular about it," James Scantlin said, noting Thrash's devotion helping others.

Stacia Thrash's grandmother, Joan Thrash, said her granddaughter has become so devoted to Sarah that she never misses a visit.

Stacia Thrash, of South Hutchinson, hopes to become an oncologist in memory of her mother, Brenda, who died of leukemia at age 23 when she was 13 months old.

She pointed out things that she and Sarah share, including that they enjoy the same kind of music, like singing and reading, and they both attended Nickerson High School.

Last year Thrash was named the winner of a scholarship that Scantlin's graduating class of 1984 established in her honor.

"That was four years before I was born," Thrash said. "She appreciates me because she thinks I'm her age."

Thrash will move to Lawrence in June to attend the University of Kansas, and she's actively looking for someone her age to replace her and continue visiting Sarah, she said.

Even though she is leaving, the two of them will remain friends. And she will be back to visit Sarah, Thrash said.

As the time came for her to leave on Friday, she held the children's book "Corduroy Goes to the Doctor," pointing and prompting as Sarah read the words of the story.

Thrash sang while Sarah formed the words of the song "You Are My Sunshine." Finally, they headed to Sarah's room for the fingernail painting.

Last week they were green for St. Patrick's Day. This week they'll be blue, Sarah's favorite color.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; US: Kansas
KEYWORDS: braininjury; sarahscantlin; terrischiavo
The story includes a video of Sarah.
1 posted on 04/06/2009 10:02:36 PM PDT by kathsua
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