By Lonnie Hinton
It was raining extremely heavy the morning of January 3, 2015, when she left Vienna by ambulance. Though not as much, it was also raining when she returned for the first time in eight months.
Allie Byrd of Vienna returned Thursday evening, Sept. 10, to a waiting crowd to welcome her home. She had been hospitalized in various medical facilities since being struck head-on by an impaired driver.
Family members, friends and strangers joined a caravan of emergency vehicles, several which helped save her life, to escort Allie to her home on Hess Street.
Allie’s uncle Kenny Baker, who was driving Allie and her mother from Chicago to Vienna, said her hips were getting sore during the long trip. “But, she was so ready to come home. The ride was nothing for her compared to her getting here!”
As a result of Allie’s injuries, both legs required amputation above the knees.
Hundreds of volunteers have spent many hours making Allie’s home wheelchair accessible. Labor and monetary donations from across the Midwest came in to help renovate the house she would soon call home. Many of these donors had never met Allie.
“The community has come together unbelievably,” Baker said. “I mean people that don’t even know Allie has helped her and helped us – all the work that has been done by Eagle House Ministries, and everyone in the community.”
“The community has come together like family,” Baker added.
The day before Allie’s return, the Vienna-Goreville football team cleaned the yard and replanted a flower bed in front of the home. A large ‘Welcome Home’ banner that was signed by hundreds of well-wishers was displayed above the garden.
According to Baker, Allie still has a long road to recovery. “She still has a lot of healing to be done and she has a lot of therapy to get ready for prosthetics.”
“She still has a couple of years of ‘a hard-road-to-go’,” her uncle noted.
A group of approximately thirty people gathered in front of Allie’s home to greet her, many whom she had never met.
After a brief restroom break and a quick tour of her recently remodeled bedroom, Allie returned outside to the waiting crowd.
Allie had a desire to become a nurse. She completed the Vienna High School nursing program while in school.
After graduation Allie began working at Hillview Nursing Home in Vienna.
JoEllen Reichert, former VHS nursing program instructor, was one of those waiting to welcome Allie home. Reichert had Allie in her CNA class the year before last.
“She was just a phenomenal young lady,” Reichert said. “She was very kind, compassionate and always saw the good in everyone.”
“She did a remarkable job at the nursing home taking care of the elderly people. They lit up when she walked in the room. And that was just the beginning of her career,” said Reichert. “I hope she continues on.”
“It is just such a joy to be here today to witness this,” she added.
Reichert said she believes Allie will continue to pursue a career in nursing.
“She has been determined all her life and I believe that determination is what will get her there.
“It’s going to be a little bit slower for her, but in the end she will make an unbelievable nurse. She will be able to make a big difference, especially with her patients that, maybe, have gone through the same thing she has in the last eight months,” she added.
Tiffany Baker is Allie’s mother. She is legally blind.
Shortly after Allie’s accident, Tiffany’s husband, Kevin Baker, unexpectedly died of a heart attack in the same hospital that Allie was being treated in.
“I’ve waited – (pause) – all this time for my babies to be home together with me,” Tiffany said with tears rolling down her cheeks.
“By the grace of God, and the love and support of this community and family, we’d had never made it this far. And I love each and everyone of you so much.”
After nearly an hour of hugs, kisses and tears, Allie said, “I just want to thank everybody for putting this together and making this all happen for me. It means a whole lot.
“Taking time out of your days when you had many other things to do – thank you everyone very much!”