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Girl paralyzed in Father’s Day wreck finally home from hospital

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 10:24 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Six-year-old Zoey Landis excitedly shares the secrets of spotting fairies as she helps her grandma build a new fairy garden in their landscape.

“Real fairies come in over here and do things they can do in a fairy garden,” she explained. “They sit on the trees and play tic tac toe.”

It’s a welcome escape for a little girl forced to deal with a harsh reality.

“I can’t walk and I’m in a wheelchair,” she said.

Zoey and her younger brother, Zackory, were in a car with their dad on Father’s Day. Authorities say he was driving drunk, went off the road, hit a culvert and rolled.

Zacky (as he family calls him) walked out of the hospital two days later, but Zoey was flown to Children’s Mercy in Kansas City. Her spine was stretched in two places, a vertebrae is fractured, and a metal plate from the base of her skull to her upper spine helps support her upper body, while she’s paralyzed from the waist down.

“It’s had a lot of ups and downs - a lot of downs more than the ups,” Shawna Bledsoe, the children’s mother, said of Zoey’s recovery. “but we’re home.”

Zoey came home last week after three months in the hospital.

“It’s a pretty big adjustment,” Bledsoe said. “All the small things that you don’t normally think about like eating at a table - you have to have enough room to get the wheelchair underneath it; bathroom sizes and railings, stairs. You take for granted just hopping in a car and going - there’s no hopping in a car and going. It’s a process.”

Bledsoe says coming home also means emotional adjustments for Zoey.

“She sees her friends doing, and she wants to go and do - and can’t quite do everything that they do,” Bledsoe said.

When you’re a kid, that’s tough.

“(It makes me feel) sad, lonely,” Zoey said. “I want to play. I want to do things.”

Bledsoe and the kids are staying with her mom while they look for a place of their own that’s handicap accessible. So far, they say, that hasn’t been easy to find. Zoey hopes to return to first grade soon, and will continue rehabilitation in Topeka. She’s experienced some feeling in her hips and feet, which offers some hope.

“There’s a chance she could walk with a lot of therapy, but a greater chance she won’t,” Bledsoe said. “I believe Zoey is going to walk. Zoey believes she’s going to walk.”

After all, she’s already made huge strides. Bledsoe said the doctors and nurses at Children’s Mercy were impressed with her recovery and being able to head home after just three months, when many children with similar injuries usually stay at least six months.

“I’m proud of her for all that she’s accomplished in such a short time,” Bledsoe said.

“No matter what happens next, Bledsoe says, she’s already had prayers answered.

“We were so close to not even having her, so I am blessed,” she said.

Zoey’s father Jimmy Landis is charged with two counts each aggravated battery while driving under the influence, and aggravated child endangerment, plus his fifth DUI charge, among other counts. He’s due in court Wednesday, Sept. 22, for a status conference.

Anyone who would like to help Zoey’s family with continued expenses may donate to their GoFundMe account.

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