“It was pretty scary for us,” McLoud teen’s coma remains a mystery to doctors 

Kids with Courage
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McLOUD, Okla. - Baylea Akins is sitting in her wheelchair on her family's back porch in McLoud on a sunny and warm spring day.

Baylea's sister brings over her prize-winning chicken and rooster for Baylea to gently pet.

They cluck softly in Baylea's hands, tame and relaxed.

"He's a blue ribbon show chicken," says Baylea proudly.

Taking these birds to contest has been put on hold for the 15-year-old.

Her life took a dramatic turn in 2016 when she went in for what they thought was a bad case of strep throat.

Baylea remembers the day of her diagnosis very well.

"The doctor came in and he actually sat down, and ER doctors don't sit down. At least not very often," she says.

The diagnosis was acute lymphoblastic leukemia or ALL. It's a very curable cancer, but in Baylea's case her symptoms took a terrible turn, and she ended up in intensive care in a coma. It appeared to doctors and her parents as though all hope was lost.

"It was pretty scary for us," Baylea's dad Brock recalls. "They put us in a room and told us if she didn't wake up by the weekend the chances of her waking up are not going to happen."

Baylea doesn't remember falling into a coma. What she does remember clearly is a dream she had right before she came out of it.

She remembers seeing a light and dark path ahead of her, and a pure white buck was standing on the light path, looking at her.

"I didn't want to spook the buck, so I went down the dark path and as I went down the dark path I woke up, pushing away the nurses."

Her dad nods and recalls that she was struggling with the nurses, with surprising strength.

Dr. Chibuzo Ilonse from Jimmy Everest Cancer Center says they're still not sure why Baylea went into a coma, and how she woke up without it affecting her cognitively.

He says her spine and brain experienced a lot of swelling, and that is what caused her to remain paralyzed below the waist.

"I would say she's one of the bravest girls I've ever met. Other than her being in a wheelchair, she is the same Baylea. She is still herself" says Dr. Ilonze.

Baylea continued her cancer treatments and says, "I still believe I might be able to walk again one day, but if not I've come to terms with how I am, and I've adapted to what it's like to be paralyzed."

Baylea has bonded with her medical team at the Jimmy Everest Cancer Center.

"The nurses up here on the 10th floor, they would go to the ICU when I went into the coma and they would visit me" says Baylea.

Baylea recently "rang the bell" at Jimmy Everest, which marks the end of her chemotherapy treatment for leukemia.

She is hopeful as the swelling in her spine continues to subside that she'll eventually stand and walk again.

The future is not mapped out, but the sun is shining again for Baylea and her family.

If you'd like to help teens fighting cancer, consider donating to JECFriends.org.

'Kids with Courage' is sponsored by the Jimmy Everest Center. 

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