After being unresponsive, 14-year-old Isabelle Stevenson is now awake and talking

By Jeff Truesdell
September 09, 2013 12:00 PM
Credit: Stapleton Family/Traverse City Record-Eagle/AP

An autistic teen girl whose mother sits in a Michigan jail, charged with trying to kill her, has rebounded from an “unresponsive” state after mother and daughter were discovered Tuesday unconscious from what police said was carbon monoxide poisoning.

“It is nothing short of a miracle,” Isabelle Stapleton’s father Matt Stapleton wrote Sunday on the Team Issy Facebook page.

“THANK YOU for the many kind words, prayers, and wishes that have been sent her way. They have made a difference,” posted Stapleton, a high-school principal whose small-town Elberta, Mich., community had rallied to support 14-year-old “Issy” and the Stapleton family through costly autism care and now this unexpected, tragic turn.

Of Isabelle’s recovery, Matt continued: “On Friday, after three days in the ICU, she was still unresponsive and had confirmed brain damage. After not seeing any changes in her condition, it was decided Friday evening to remove Isabelle from the ventilator. She responded by breathing on her own for the rest of the evening. The following morning, she awoke from her four[-]day ‘coma-like’ state asking questions, making requests, and quite incredibly, showing signs of the amazing young woman she is.

“For three days, she was hooked up to machines and showed very little progress. Fast forward 24 hours and we are out of the critical unit, completely independent, and beginning discussions about the extent of her brain damage. She has smiled and is now walking and talking.

“While she still has several obstacles to overcome, we are extremely hopeful with this unbelievable turn of events.”

Posts by Isabelle’s mother, Kelli, on her blog The Status Woe indicated that, days before Issy returned home Aug. 30 from a seven-month residential treatment program to help control the teen’s sometimes-violent behavior, Kelli argued with a special-education program instructor at the hometown school where Issy hoped to enroll this week.

In response, Kelli wrote, the school district had “uninvited” her daughter.

“I did this. I failed Issy,” Kelli later wrote on the Team Issy Facebook page. The school district superintendent declined to discuss the case with PEOPLE.

On Sept. 3, after an in-home aide arrived at the Stapleton home and saw that Kelli and Issy were gone, police searched and said they found the family’s van with Kelli and Issy inside, unconscious and with burnt charcoals that had filled the closed vehicle with carbon monoxide.

Kelli revived and was later arrested on a charge of attempted murder.

“The Stapleton Family would like to thank all of you who have come together to support, encourage, and pray for our little girl,” wrote Matt Stapleton. “We will forever be grateful for your efforts. We also thank the many medical professionals we will continue to work with in the hopes of a realistic recovery. We have never been so optimistic.

“In this story, however tragic the details, there will always be a happy ending. Isabelle is alive.”