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Wendy Reuer, Published September 03 2013

Lexi Bolstad shows enough improvement to be moved out of ICU

FARGO – After a month of small steps toward recovery from a severe head injury on Aug. 4, a talented Davies High School athlete has shown enough improvement to be moved from the Intensive Care Unit at Essentia Hospital.

Alexis (Lexi) Bolstad is scheduled to be moved from her room in the ICU to a regular room as soon as one becomes available, her dad, Jon Bolstad, said Tuesday.

Most of the machines and IVs Bolstad has remained tethered to since her accident and subsequent brain surgery earlier this month have been removed.

“At one time, I counted 16 bags, machines, monitors, tubes connected to her, and I'm not sure that was even the most,” her sister, Brittney, wrote on Lexi’s Caring Bridge website.

Brittney, a nursing student at the University of North Dakota, Jon, a captain in the Fargo Fire Department, and his wife, Robin, have stayed close to Lexi’s side since the accident.

Brittney has primarily been responsible for updating the Caring Bridge site, where more than 73,000 visitors have kept an eye on the basketball and volleyball standout’s progress.

“(Brittney) comes home and takes good care of her,” Jon Bolstad said.

Lexi has been heavily sedated since the accident. After brain surgery, doctors slowly warmed up Lexi’s body temperature while closely monitoring her reactions.

The almost daily Caring Bridge updates have outlined a mostly forward-moving recovery for Lexi, although on Aug. 22 she developed a blood clot that forced doctors to perform “risky” measures to fix it.

“We weren't sure she'd make it through the procedure,” her family stated on the Caring Bridge site.

Then progress seemed to move quicker. Lexi was fitted with a helmet on Thursday to protect her head while she works to become more active, her Caring Bridge site stated.

She has been able to move her hands and legs, and used an iPad on Monday to type words to her family.

Bolstad uttered “Ouch,” but otherwise has not spoken since the accident. A tube in her trachea had prevented it, but the tube was removed on Sunday, Jon Bolstad said.

Last week, her family and doctors began discussing rehabilitation facilities for Lexi.

Bolstad said there are no specialized rehab facilities for Lexi in North Dakota. The closest is in Minnesota, which means the family will likely need to temporarily leave the community.

“It’s just been unbelievable how everyone has come together and supported Lexi and us,” Bolstad said. “I’ve really become humbled. I know it was a tragedy, but what everyone has done for us, we can’t thank them enough.”

Bolstad said he and his wife are amazed by the high level of care at Essentia Health. He said Lexi and the family would return to Fargo as she progresses through rehabilitation programs.

The family has said they don’t know the details of Lexi’s accident, only that she fell on her head. Jon Bolstad said the focus is on her recovery.

Lexi would have started school as a senior on Aug. 22 at Davies High School. The 5-foot-11-inch athlete played basketball, volleyball and threw shot put in track and field.

She was known for her tenacity and strong will to put in hard work on and off the courts.

“She’s just a tough, tough girl,” her dad said. “Lex is our miracle.”

About 150 people attended a candlelight vigil on Aug. 15 at Ed Clapp Park across from Lexi’s fourth-floor hospital room, and a team of her friends and classmates participated in the Viking Challenge 5K in Fergus Falls, Minn., in her honor. The nonprofit GreenSneakers also launched a fundraiser in Lexi’s name at the challenge. GreenSneakers collects used sneakers and donates the recycling proceeds to local groups or individuals.

Tributes and donations to the family can be made on Lexi’s Caring Bridge site at www.CaringBridge.org/visit/alexisbolstad.

“Keep the prayers coming,” Bolstad said. “We just can’t thank everyone enough for how much they’ve already done.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530