Around noon, she and sister, Candace, took their brother out for his birthday lunch, and around 6 p.m., the girls reconnected to take their usual fitness walk.
Within moments, Candace heard the sound of a speeding vehicle approaching from behind. She turned, and saw it coming toward her on the wrong side of the road.
Candace reached for Kala to pull her out its path, but missed by a hair. The car struck, knocking the teenager upon the windshield, then tossing her against the hard pavement.
“They had been gone about 20 minutes when I received the call,” said mom Alma Harvey. “Candace was screaming and crying. I went to where they were and found Kala in critical condition. I didn’t really recognize her, but I recognized what she was wearing.”
A helicopter airlifted Kala, 18, to The MED in Memphis. Doctors were not encouraging. They could find no sign of brain activity, and her mother, Alma, was asked to sign a do-not-resuscitate order.
“They said if she did survive, she would never have any quality of life,” Alma said. “But I did not sign. There was no need in my mind. I believe in talking to God, and he said she was healed. So I’ve only believed she was going to get better.”
That positive attitude and loving support has carried Kala from a comatose state to being able to walk, talk and use Facebook again.
Thursday, she graduated from Quest, a Methodist Rehabilitation Center outpatient program that helps brain and spinal injury survivors successfully return to school, work or community life.
Harvey has made a world of progress since Dec. 27, 2008, the day doctor’s asked her mother what nursing home they should place her in.
“She had no eye movement,” Alma said. “We were turning her every two hours and feeding her through a tube. She wasn’t able to talk.”
On Jan. 8, 2009, Kala began rehabilitation in Jackson. Nurse practitioner K.K. Ramsey, who works in the outpatient brain injury and spasticity clinic, met Kala on April 2, 2009.
“They pushed her into the exam room in a wheel chair,” she said. “She was non-verbal, had limited head control. She had a feeding tube. She could not control her bowls or bladder.”
Over the next three years, Kala benefitted from a wide variety of MRC therapies — from receiving Botox injections to relieve crippling spasticity to using neuro-stimulation devices to improve her walking ability.
Rachel Dear, a MRC physical therapist, first evaluated Kala in December of 2010.
“At that point, she was in a wheel chair,” Dear said. “She was very fearful of putting any weight on her left leg, and she was only walking (in therapy.) She was using a Hemi walker. She had a lot of difficulty bending her left knee. She shook a lot. Her central nervous system has been injured, so it caused her not to be able to control her movement.”
But Dear witnessed Kala’s steady progression.
“You have to have a positive attitude, motivation to work hard and a good support system to get through something like this,” she said. “I refer to Kala as ‘the total package.’ She really had all three. There has to be something in a patient’s mind that they want to get back to. Kala really wanted to walk without an assisted device, and she wanted to go back to school.”
Kala will be referred to two clinics closer to home to help improve her hand and physical mobility.
“They have been making this drive since last March, staying three days a week in Jackson,” said Dear, who believes within the next six months, Harvey will be able to walk with her sister again.
“She worked with speech, occupational therapists, psychologists and vocational specialists, who placed her in a volunteer position at her former high school library.”
Kala now volunteers at Madison Shannon Palmer High School in Marks, where she graduated as valedictorian.
“Now, she has some meaningful activities outside of therapy,” said Dear. “Her goal is to try to enroll in Jackson State in the fall.”
Kala spoke by phone Wednesday.
“I want to be a kindergarten teacher because I love children,” she said.
Her mother said she also wants to work with the blind and deaf.
“Kala has always been eager to learn and was always concerned about her grades,” said Alma. “She never wanted anything less than an A. She was really astute in her studying. She cares about her career. I have watched her regain so much. She is now cooking, texting on her phone. She can use the computer. She is on Facebook. Everybody that has watched her knows that she is truly a miracle.”
Kala doesn’t remember the accident.
“She asked us what happened, and we told her,” Alma said. “She wanted to go see the lady who hit her. We took her to see her, and she made her own peace with her. She said, ‘I don’t believe you hit me on purpose. I know it was an accident.’ And when it was over, she said, ‘Mama, I’m done with that.’”
Alma said no charges were filed against the driver.
“At the time, I wanted a drug test, a hair follicle test done,” she said, “but I didn’t have time to hang around and see that that was being done because I was busy with her.”
Alma said they later found out that the driver didn’t have a license and had recently received two DUIs.
“Kala has always been one to — if she knows something is beyond her means of doing anything with it, she puts it in God’s hands and says the Lord will handle it.”
Alma, who worked in the school system for more than 20 years before becoming disabled, has also found peace by relying on her spirituality.
“Everything the Lord allows is for a reason,” she said. “That has always been our motto. The biggest thing I can see out of this happening has been the inspiration we have been for other people. When we were at The MED, a lady, whose son was in an accident, seemed like she was just giving up. I said, ‘You can’t do that. No matter how bad it gets, it can always get better.’ You pray expecting things to happen as if they already have.”
–LaReeca Rucker, Clarion-Ledger