“God has a big plan for her,” Amber said. “She very well could not have made it that day. To make it, much less be 100 percent functional and smart and not one single handicap, is amazing.”
Now 11, Jaycie said her love of horses has never waned. She doesn’t remember the accident, but does remember doing rehabilitation exercises and can recall some of the new people she met, including President Barack Obama in 2009.
Obama pointed at her in the crowd of Children’s Miracle Network visitors to the White House and Jaycie West invited him to “come to South Dakota to play basketball, go hunting and ride horses.” The president replied, “That’s a busy day.”
Being atop a horse is second-nature for Jaycie, who now lives on a ranch 17 miles south of Union Center with her mother, a competitive barrel racer, her father, Zach, a team roper and retired bronc rider, and younger brother, Eastan.
“Brownie is my new one,” Jaycie said of her horses. Her favorite rodeo sport now is barrel racing, a love she learned from her mother.
Now one of 14 students at a country school in Hereford, the fifth-grader plays piano and basketball, listens to country music - particularly Miranda Lambert - and hangs out with her friends.
Amber said she remembers standing over her daughter on the day of the accident as the medical team worked on her at the hospital.
“When the doctor said it (was bad), I went into the bathroom, threw up and had a meltdown,” she said. “But Eastan, he was 3 - and I had to pull myself together.”
Zach said he went outside and had a moment and after that, it was, “OK, we’re not going to settle for anything other than her being fine. We’re not going to sit around and cry and poor-me. We’re determined she’s going to be OK and that’s just all there is to it.”
Over the course of many months, Jaycie slowly regained movement in her hands and the left side of her body. She faced another challenge when she returned home, however. Her horse, Wanda, the one that had been her motivation to keep up with her rehab work, became ill.
“That’s how I got her to work through rehab,” Amber said. “She was frustrated and tired. They worked her hard. She would say, ‘My hand won’t work.’ I’d say, ‘Honey you have to keep trying; Wanda is waiting for you to get better and get home so you can ride.’ So, she’d try again.”
Wanda, a male horse, died a week after Jaycie returned home.
“He came in off-pasture from the barn and looked terrible,” Amber said. “We ran him to the vet and we had to put him down.”
It didn’t deter Jaycie from her love of horses.