GENEVA — The prognosis wasn’t good for Lillie Austin.
After suffering a traumatic brain injury when she was 9 months old, doctors at Golisano Children’s Hospital prepared parents Katie and Dick Austin for the worst. They suggested that because of her significant brain injuries, she might never be able to walk, speak or function well.
“It looked pretty grim at first, and we didn’t get a lot of good news,” Katie said.
Little did they know, however, just how far their daughter, now 9 and a fourth-grader at North Street School, would come.
Thanks to assistance from Golisano, Happiness House, the Geneva City School District and the Brain Injury Association of New York State, Lillie has beaten those early prognostications to become a thriving youngster with a bright future.
“She’s just doing really well,” Katie said. “Day by day she beat the odds.”
Lillie is doing so well, in fact, that on Saturday, she will be the Rochester chapter honoree for the March On for Brain Injury walk at Seneca Park in the city. It’s a fundraiser for the Brain Injury Association of New York State’s Rochester office, which covers much of central and western New York. According to the association, its mission is to “to minimize brain injury through prevention and to support, educate and advocate for people and families living with brain injury.”
Katie said she can’t say enough about the assistance Lillie has received since the injury, and wanted to point out, in particular, Sharon Johnson, the Family Advocacy Counseling and Training Services Program coordinator for the Finger Lakes region at the Brain Injury Association. She has been working with Lillie and the family since Lillie was in pre-school.
“We’ve just seen a lot of support,” said Katie. “It’s been a really positive experience for her.”
Johnson said Lillie is deserving of the honor.
“The Brain Injury Association of New York State is so thrilled to be able to honor Lillie Austin at this year’s March On for Brain Injury,” Johnson said by email. “Her courage and determination are an inspiration to us all, and her recovery is nothing short of miraculous.”
Katie said the Brain Injury Association is calling Lillie “their little spokesperson,” and indeed she has been doing just that, including an appearance on “Good Morning Rochester” this past week to promote the event.
“She’s going to get up before the walk and say a few words,” said Katie, who noted that her daughter has taken part in several fundraising efforts to assist the Brain Injury Association. “It’s just a really cool thing.”
Lillie will be walking with a group from Geneva that includes family and friends, as well as some Geneva teachers who wanted to show support for the youngster.
Katie said her daughter has made incredible progress and therapists continue to work with her.
“She just keeps overcoming obstacle after obstacle," Katie said. "She’s very inspirational. I consider her a miracle.”
Danielle Duval of Geneva, one of Lillie’s aunts, said she’s watched the young lady make an incredible recovery from those dark days after the injury.
“What can I say about my niece that hasn’t already been said?” she said. “She is such a bright, bubbly, ball of energy. Nothing she’s been through in her short life has affected her amazing personality, and we all just love her to pieces. From excelling at school to swimming to riding a horse to learning how to ride a bike, she overcomes all obstacles with such an infectious smile on her face. She is so deserving to be this year’s honoree, and I am so very proud of her determination, not only to exceed herself but for wanting to be an example and an advocate for others with traumatic brain injury. We’re going to continue to see big things from this little girl, I just know it.”