Leah Recovers from a Brain Injury

Patient Story

Thousands Rally Around Girl Left Unconscious in Accident

Posted By Meg Washburn

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A 5-year-old north suburban girl is defying doctor’s expectations.

NBC 5 first introduced you to Leah Dinchak in August through pictures after a tragic accident left her in a coma. She is awake now, and she continues rehabilitation.

Leah Dinchak was rediscovering her voice with cheery shouts while working with a physical therapist on a bicycle. "Mommy says 'no' almost like, to everything," she told NBC 5. "She doesn’t want me to get sick. That’s nice mommy."

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Her parents, Jennifer and Blake Dinchak, have been by her side since the beginning.

Just two months ago Leah fell into a coma after she was hit by a van in Lindenhurst. She suffered brain swelling and an injury to her spine, yet not one broken bone.

At the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in downtown Chicago, she continues to regain her life.

"Good days and bad, but she’s does very well," Blake said.Even nurses, like Elizabeth Lakani, say they're shocked by her improvement. "I could tell she was sassy from when she started to wake up," she said. "But seeing this amount of sass is really exciting."

Stephany Kunzweiler, Leah's physical therapist, is key to her progress.  "It’s almost as if she needs to relearn all of her motor skills again like she was when she was an infant," Kunzweiler said.

The more I wear it, the more I heal.

Leah, discussing her new neck brace

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Leah still doesn’t know what happened to her. But even she realizes she’s improving. "The more I wear it, the more I heal," she said of her neck brace.

Her mother sees it too.

"She knows that she is fighting and she needs to get better, but she also doesn’t really care why," Jennifer said. Her parents are convinced the outpouring of support from around the country is playing a key role in her recovery. A lesson all can learn from a 5-year-old defying the odds.

Leah has an MRI scheduled for Friday that will determine if she can soon move to an outpatient rehab facility.

"Better than ever," she says.

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