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Helmut Schmidt, Published March 27 2014

'From a nightmare to a miracle': Lexi Bolstad continues remarkable recovery; LexiJam set Saturday

FARGO – If you saw Lexi Bolstad walk into Family Wellness on Thursday morning, you wouldn’t know that her life hung in the balance seven months ago.

The 18-year-old Davies High School student has made huge strides in recovering from a skull fracture and severe brain injury.

She no longer wears a helmet to protect her head. She walks with purpose, just a slight hitch in her gait.

She’s talking, sharing a few words as she gets ready to doff her cardinal red letter jacket and head to therapy.

How’s she doing?

Her face lights up with a million-watt smile. She gives a thumbs-up.

“Good!” she says.

For her father, Jon Bolstad, the transformation through all the surgeries and months of inpatient and outpatient care and therapy is nothing short of remarkable.

“She’s improving immensely. From where we were, it’s amazing,” he said.

Lexi was injured Aug. 4 in a fall off the back of a GEM electric car.

When Lexi entered Denver’s Craig Hospital in early September, she needed help to get out of bed. By Nov. 23, she walked out of the hospital, he said.

“The last month with speech, it’s just kind of clicked. It’s getting better and better each day,” Bolstad said. “It’s kind of nice to be able to communicate” beyond sign language.

Lexi’s also working on eating, with the goal of being able to get rid of a stomach feeding tube.

“It’s been quite a ride. We went from a nightmare to a miracle,” Bolstad said.

The Fargo Fire Department captain said Lexi is working to increase her range of motion and gain strength and coordination on her right side.

Complicating her recovery from the brain injury is that she was not fully recovered from an April surgery on one of her anterior cruciate ligaments.

For now, most of Lexi’s week is spent in speech, occupational or physical therapy, either at Family Wellness, Davies, or a local hospital. Bolstad and his wife, Robin, take turns getting Lexi to and from her appointments.

By the end of a typical day, Bolstad said his daughter is tired, heading to bed by 7:30 or 8 p.m.

She reads well; writing is a bit harder, he said.

Her comprehension is good, and her thumbs tap out a text like any other teen, he said.

“We’re kind of hoping she can go back (to Davies) next year for her senior year. We’ll see how it goes,” Bolstad said.

Eagles don’t forget

Lexi’s classmates and Eagles basketball teammates haven’t forgotten her.

She sat on the bench for some of their games, which her father said had her grinning “from ear-to-ear.”

And this Saturday, the Davies community will hold LexiJam, a basketball-centered fundraiser at the school at 7150 25th St. S.

The event begins at 5 p.m. with a silent auction, and continues with a boys basketball game at 6 p.m., and a girls game at 7:30 p.m.

All proceeds go to the Bolstad family to help with medical bills and the cost of ongoing recovery.

‘It’s kind of exciting’

On Thursday, Lexi’s therapy session started in a dance and workout room off the main gym and training areas of Family Wellness in southwest Fargo.

With the help of therapist Carolyn Hennum, Lexi picked some country and light rock music to power her workout.

Then for about 25 minutes, Lexi went through a range of exercises starting with walking, jogging, side-stepping and running back and forth the length of the studio.

During one trip across the polished maple floor, Lexi tossed a ball back and forth with Hennum, then did a behind the back pass, much as she might have done on a basketball court.

“Wow! I’ve never seen that before,” Jon Bolstad said.

Lexi then stretched, tossed and caught balls, and worked on fine motor control with hand exercises. Most of it was done with a smile, as she joked with her father and Hennum.

But at times, there was a frown, as limbs or fingers refuse to do her will.

The smile returned when she geared up for racquetball. Everyone got a “high five” with her racquet.

When she hit the court, she tracked the ball well, alternating shots with Hennum.

Bolstad said Lexi has also shot baskets on the facility’s basketball courts. Her goal is to play basketball again, he said.

“That’s encouraging to see the improvements. It’s kind of exciting to see what happens next,” he said.

If you go

What: LexiJam, a benefit to help Lexi Bolstad and her family with ongoing care and expenses as she recovers from a brain injury

When: Saturday. Doors open at 5 p.m. for a silent auction. A boys basketball game starts at 6 p.m., and a girls game starts at 7:30 p.m. The games feature current and former area high school athletes.

Where: Davies High School, 7150 25th St. S., Fargo

Cost: Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students and free for children ages 5 and under. A pulled-pork meal will be available for purchase.

How to help: Contributions can be made to the LexiJam Benefit Fund.

Donations can be mailed to Wells Fargo Bank, 2501 13th Ave. S., Fargo, ND 58103 or dropped off at any Wells Fargo location.

To make an online donation, go to www.dakmed.org/lendahand, click on “donate” and then select “Lend A Hand – benefitting LexiJam Benefit Fund.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583