Lily Stilwell is a typical teenager with lots of friends who loves to go hiking and boating. But in October, Lily’s active life changed in an instant.
“Three miles from home I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt the car flipped, hit a tree and some rocks,” said Stilwell.
It was shortly after midnight, Lily had been riding in a car along Pony Farm Road in Moretown when the driver, her friend lost control.
Stilwell said, “I woke up later to actually being in the hospital, I couldn’t feel my legs at that point so I was pretty scared.”
Lily’s mom, Tina Rich recalled the moment she found out her only child was in a terrible accident, “It was a nightmare absolutely getting that phone call at 2:45 in the morning from the hospital saying your daughter has been in an accident and you need to be here now.”
Lily had suffered severe damage to her spinal cord was initially paralyzed from the neck down and was taken into emergency surgery at UVM.
“She is beyond lucky to be able to use he hands and her arms because she should not be able to with that level of injury,” explained Rich.
Surgeons were only able to repair four of the six vertebrae fractured in the accident, leaving Lily still paralyzed from the waist down which meant weeks of extensive therapy lay ahead.
Stilwell said, “They are really hard but in a good way when I am working I can feel my legs getting tired and getting sore, I can feel the muscles flexing so it is all good signs.”
More than three months after the crash, Lily was finally able to return home but wheelchair bound.
“Just learning to do things a different way that works very best for me… Getting dressed takes a while you know brushing your teeth in the sink in the kitchen, getting ready in the morning you know having to get up early if I need to do other things,” explained Stilwell.
Right now Lily’s home is not suitable for her new way of life.
“Every door in this house is too small each and every one and everyone is hard for her to maneuver including the door for her to access the space… There is absolutely no way she could get out of the chair onto that toilet and back into the chair it is physically impossible… The kitchen is the same way,” said Buzz Ferver, who is volunteering and owns Overbrook Design.
However, help is on the way as a group of folks from the area are rallying behind lily and are working towards building her a new space.
Ferver said, “Once we tear the bathroom and the kitchen walls out most of the space will be dedicated to the bathroom of course… We’ll move that kitchen down into this larger public space so she will have a bed some chairs for people to visit her and kitchen read-handy and then this space will be for her bathroom and personal use.”
A fundraiser called ‘A Room for Lily’ is collecting money for supplies. The project is expected to cost around $30 thousand.
“There is a lot of community support for someone that is struggling mean this whole valley is just an amazing place for that,” said Brooke Cunningham, organizing fundraiser.
In the meantime, Lily and her mom continue to travel to New Hampshire three times a week for therapy and other doctor appointments.
It’s the support though that lily says keep her going.
Stilwell said, “My family and all my friends just knowing I have a lot of support and I get a lot of people telling me that I am an inspiration and that I am really strong for what I am doing it is kind of my motivation.”
“We have been told over and over again that she will never walk again and we believe in miracles and we will not quit our fight to allow her to regain anything that she can regain no matter what it takes,” added Rich.
The man behind the wheel is currently facing four criminal charges, the case is still working through the court system.
To learn more about how you can help build a room for Lily, click here.