It’s been over a year since 6-year-old Eden Hoelscher performed a backbend in her living room that left her paralyzed from the waist down. And the smile that she bravely displayed in the weeks and months following her accident still hasn’t left her face.
On the morning of Dec. 23, 2015, Eden’s mother, Kylee Hoelscher, walked into the room to find her young daughter collapsed on the floor. After realizing that she had lost feeling in her feet and legs, the family rushed Eden to the hospital, where doctors learned that the backbend hyperextended her spine, causing a stroke in her spinal cord.
As soon as possible, Eden began physical therapy with a resilient spirit that has captured the hearts of everyone around her.
“She has made an amazing recovery,” Kylee tells PEOPLE.
Over the past year, the first grader has achieved many milestones — big and small — to the amazement of doctors, physical therapists and her family. Kylee has been keeping supporters updated on her progress on the family’s Facebook page, Stand for Eden.
And it’s Eden’s commitment to getting stronger that led her parents to decide to pack up and move from their home in Palos Verdes, California, to Louisville, Kentucky, so Eden can receive treatment at the renowned Frazier Rehabilitation Institute.
And in July, the family was blown away when Eden took her first steps since the injury during a playful visit with her best friend Violet, who had flown from California to see her.
“They were having this imaginary sword fight [during one of Eden’s treatment sessions] and she just started taking steps,” Kylee says.
“Part of her treatment involves locomotor training on a treadmill where she’s in a harness and they support a percentage of her body weight. For an hour, they try to wake up her spinal cord and get it moving. Then they take her into another room and see what they can get her body to do,” Kylee explains.
Her physical therapists started walking her legs for her, then all of the sudden, Eden got so excited that she started taking a step — on her own.
“Her therapist was holding her and Violet and Eden started sword fighting again and Eden started taking a step toward Violet,” Kylee says. “They were kind of holding her, so they were supporting some of her weight, but she started taking steps around the room and then into the hallway.”
“It was really amazing,” Kylee says, adding that her daughter had a premonition that she might walk during her best friend’s visit.
“Eden said, ‘Hey mom, I think when Violet comes, I think that she loves me so much that I’m going to walk when she comes,” Kylee says.
Eden, who returned to school last week after months of working with a tutor, goes to physical therapy five mornings a week and sees doctors regularly to monitor her progress. There is still no prognosis, according to Kylee, but there’s no denying that Eden has made immense strides in her road to recovery.
“She wasn’t able to sit up on her own in the beginning,” she says. “But now she can fully sit up, get dressed, brush her teeth, take a bath and wash her own hair. She’s a lot more comfortable in her own skin — just comfortable in her body and with the way that she is.”
“She can scoot all around the floor and she’s learning how to bump up and down stairs. She wants to be independent and she doesn’t want to constantly be carried,” she adds.
Despite the progress she’s made, Kylee admits that her daughter has some dark moments.
“She does have rough days where she says, ‘Mom, am I ever going to get better?’ ” Kylee says. “I had her watch the video of her taking steps and said, ‘What do you think?’ She looked at me and said, ‘Yeah. I am.’ “
The Hoelscher family, which includes 9-year-old Isabella, chooses to focus on the good in their lives as they move forward.
“I think that’s the key,” Kylee says. “Obviously, we all have our bad days, but you can’t think about what you lost and what’s different or you just wouldn’t get out of bed. You have to think about what you still have and what you can still do.
“We still have the four of us. And we’re very fortunate that Frazier is in a great place like Louisville where we’ve just been embraced so warmly. We always try to think of what we have versus what we don’t have.”