Six-year-old Laney McGowan was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome when she was just four-months old and had her first seizure. Dravet Syndrome is a rare form of treatment-resistant epilepsy which causes prolonged seizures. 

In December, Laney struggled with several upper respiratory infections and suffered a seizure that lasted for twenty-eight minutes.

Two days before Christmas, Laney wasn’t “breathing right,” according to her mother, Tiffany Rowan. Tiffany called the ambulance to take her to the emergency room, an occurrence that happened often due to the complexity of Laney’s illness. Tiffany's call that morning saved her daughter's life. 

Laney went into cardiac arrest soon after arriving at the hospital and was placed on life support to sustain her cardiac and respiratory function. 

“It was like a Hail Mary,” said her dad, Jason McGowan. Due to the cardiac arrest, Laney had decreased circulation to her brain that caused her to have a stroke. She experienced significant weakness and loss of movement to the left side of her body.  

Once her fragile condition was stabilized, Laney was ready for the next phase of recovery and was admitted to Blythedale Children’s Hospital at the end of January for comprehensive rehabilitation. As the only post-acute pediatric brain injury unit in New York State, Blythedale was the best environment for Laney to recover. 

Laney received intensive physical, occupational, speech, and feeding therapies to help her regain her ability to use her left side and navigate her world again. Tiffany Rowan described her daughter's therapies as “work disguised as play.” Prior to Laney's admission to the hospital, Laney would often tell her parents, “no sleep, play” and that attitude persisted as she worked diligently to relearn how to walk and talk and eat. Among Laney's favorites were the rock-climbing wall and obstacle courses in the Milton Spahn Therapy Village.

“She loves to go, go, go,” said Kathy Silverman, D.O., Unit Chief of the Pediatric, Adolescent and Traumatic Brain Injury Units at Blythedale Children’s Hospital. “She's a very resilient girl and at times, it felt like we had trouble keeping up with her.”  

Laney was discharged from Blythedale in March to head home to her family and community, all of whom were excitedly awaiting her return.

"It's bittersweet," said Rowan. "I'm actually sad to leave Blythedale."