Maya has has made steady progress since her ski accident. Photo courtesy of Candy Barnard-Davidson.

UPDATE, JUNE 4, 2015: Maya is home from the rehabilitation center and back in The Dalles with her family, celebrating her 20th birthday today. Read on for background information about her accident, injuries and recovery.

From 1/29/15: Maya Barnard-Davidson is moving out of the hospital and into a specialized rehabilitation facility in Portland after showing steady progress in recovering from a traumatic ski accident on Mount Hood New Year's Eve.

The facility is called the Rehabilitation Institute of Oregon, or RIO, and it is an inpatient program at Legacy Good Samaritan in Portland for people recovering from strokes, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, multiple sclerosis and other maladies.

Maya, a 19-year-old expert skier from The Dalles who was living and working on Mount Hood for the winter, crashed at high speed on Reynolds Run at Skibowl on New Year's Eve and was transported by Life Flight to OHSU in a coma. She was not wearing a helmet at the time of her accident.

She spent several weeks in the Intensive Care Unit at OHSU with a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury and went through skull surgery to accommodate the swelling of her brain. Since then her recovery has been steady. Only patients who are responding to therapy are admitted into the rehabilitation facility, so when Maya's family learned that she had been accepted they were thrilled.

“We are very excited that she is going to move on to the rehabilitation facility," said Maya's mother, Candy Barnard-Davidson. "I don’t know that she understands how important that is, but it is a big deal.”

At RIO Maya will receive at least three hours per day of specialized physical, occupational and cognitive therapy for six weeks. After that she will undergo surgery to replace the portion of her skull that was removed to accommodate the swelling of her brain after her accident. After the surgery she is expected to be released to continue her therapy as an outpatient.

First Words Since Her Accident

Maya still has a reduced level of consciousness from her brain trauma, but she can now identify people, move her head to indicate yes or no, point and smile.

As of this week she can also stand and speak. A visiting friend asked Maya Tuesday if she liked her tattoo, and Maya  whispered, “Love it.” Later that night, she whispered, “Love you, Mom.” The next day during therapy, she told the therapist that she was hungry.

She also did her best job yet of standing on Wednesday, with help from a physical therapist using a special belt to keep her muscles engaged. 

"They’re not holding her up, they’re keeping her from falling over," said Candy Barnard-Davidson. "But she is doing this standing, and you can see on her face that it is just hard. It is so hard.”

While Maya was struggling with relearning how to stand with good balance, the physical therapist asked her if she wanted to give her mom a hug.

“I haven’t been able to hug her since before her accident," said Candy. "But she was able to give me a hug, and she kind of buried her head in my shoulder. I was trying not to cry for her, and I told her, ‘It’s going to be a long road. We’re going to look forward. We’re not going to look back. You can do this. You have everybody plus a thousand other people behind you.’ She just kind of pulled herself together and kept working on her therapy.”

An Outpouring

Candy Barnard-Davidson has spent nearly every waking moment with her daughter since learning of her accident on New Year's Eve and driving straight from The Dalles to the OSHU Emergency Room in Portland. She and her husband Mark, Maya's sister Sage, her brother Ian and her boyfriend Taylor Jackson have spent countless hours visiting with Maya at the hospital, along with Maya's many friends.

“It’s traumatic for everyone involved," said Candy. "Not just family, friends too. Maya has some great friends and this has been traumatizing for all of them.”

The Ronald McDonald House has provided lodging for the Barnard-Davidson family in Portland, and will continue to do so while Maya is at RIO.

Candy has been posting frequently on Facebook to keep Maya's friends and family informed of her progress. Her post from Jan. 21 read in part:

We have been at OHSU for 21 days today and at times it feels like we just got here. We are a long way from where we started and thankful for every day we have with Maya. Life is so precious and unpredictable.

The community response has been powerful, both in person and online.

“We have so many people who love her and care about her," said Candy. "There has been such an amazing outpouring of love for our daughter. It has been astonishing how it has grown and grown.”

'I don’t know if that will ever feel resolved.'

Maya's accident took place just a few hours after another expert skier, Brian Fletcher, crashed on the same portion of Reynolds Run. Fletcher was pronounced dead on the mountain that night from head and chest trauma.

Both Fletcher and Barnard-Davidson were skiing without helmets at the time of their New Year's Eve accidents, but both families also have expressed concerns about the safety of Reynolds Run, where fast downhill traffic meets slow traversing traffic with a sudden terrain change.

Candy Barnard-Davidson has been in touch with Sandra Fletcher, Brian Fletcher's mother, and the two moms are considering making a formal request for Skibowl to improve the safety of that portion of Reynolds Run. Barnard-Davidson has spoken with Hans Wipper, director of public relations and risk management for Skibowl, and said she plans to pursue the issue further.

"I asked them why they didn’t close the run down," she said. "They said they didn’t think there was a problem with the run, but I’m sorry. I disagree...

"I don’t know if that will ever feel resolved," she said. "But you’ve got to move forward.”