Natalie Hill, founder of HoldYou Foundation, has long held the belief that being present in the lives of those suffering is the greatest gift you can give them. As a teenager, a health scare led to her spending time in the Oncology Unit at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Natalie can still recall the number of children who were there without their parents attending to them. If she, as a teenager, wanted her mom with her for every needle prick, how were the much younger children handling it?

This pivotal moment left an indelible impression that was brought to the surface again when her cousin Taylor suffered a traumatic brain injury after she was struck by a car while crossing the street. For nine days, Taylor laid in a medically induced coma while her parents kept vigil by her bedside. The weeks and months of round-the-clock care that Taylor needed put her family's life on hold. Help came in from all directions, but the most important need to be met was Taylor’s need to have her mom and dad by her side. Realizing that financial stress presents the greatest challenge for families as they try to navigate often lengthy treatments, HoldYou Foundation was created. HoldYou Foundation exists to assist families with children in medical crisis so that they can hold their children, their dreams, and their families together.

Taylor’s Story

On June 4, 2014, 14 year old Taylor Smith’s day started out like any other normal day.  But that afternoon, Taylor and her family’s life would be changed forever.  As Taylor was returning from P.E. class, she crossed the street on a green light in front of her school along with her classmates. At that moment, a speeding car exiting an off ramp onto the road Taylor was crossing, ran a red light and hit three young girls as they crossed. All three girls were hurt badly, but Taylor took the brunt of the hit and suffered a traumatic brain injury along with skull and pelvic fractures.

By day 3 in the ICU, Taylor’s mother, Laurel Carini, knew there was no going back to work and her life was no longer going to be the way it was.  Her “job” now was to focus all her time and energy on Taylor and her little sister Emma.  Everything had to work itself out.  Somehow, Laurel thought, that’s just the way it had to be.

Taylor spent 64 days in three different hospitals.  The days were sad, grueling and filled with lots of ups and downs and many unknowns, but her family never left her bedside.  Laurel kept family and friends updated on Taylor’s progress through her daily blog post.

Day 35

by Laurel Carini, Taylor’s mother, July 9, 2014

Today was a VERY good day....

Today!—- I am on my knees in gratitude. This morning it began with nods from Taylor on her own; and then with our help, she found her voice and connected it with words!! Christine (our wonderful speech therapist) helped Taylor find her ‘Yes’ and her ‘No’ words!——, and she then asked Taylor a series of questions. Taylor knows she’s not a man, and she knows she doesn’t have 3 eyes, and she also knows she doesn’t live in Wisconsin— but California. Then —-with some humming and coaxing came “maaaa-oooom”——then, “hiiiiii mom,” and then slowly, “I love you mommy” as she reached out to hug me. I fell to my knees at the side of her bed shedding the happiest tears of my entire life.... Neither Christine or I were expecting THAT! Then she said, “hello, my name is Taylor....” (introducing herself about 15 times) She also identified a few things with words; ‘hairbrush’, “hairspray” and “EOS lip balm”!!!! Yes, that is what she said!!! Taylor laid down looking exhausted after this, and I asked her “how are you?”; and she closed her eyes——opened them after a good pause, and said (in true Taylor fashion) “good. how are you..... “I told her (through many tears) “I am SO happy —-so good!—-and so so happy”!! We called her Dad on the phone and (of course through many tears, told him the news) I put Taylor on speaker phone so she could say the same to him! She said “hiiiiiii, I love you too....” To top it off—- later in the day she stood up (mostly on her left leg) leaning against Jen for a full minute. Big stuff!! My heart is filled as I continue to be hopeful, grateful, and mindful—-as ALL of this slowly unfolds before us. I will continue to pray for patience, understanding, and strength....I will continue to lean on all of you for support and courage.Thank you. Each of you.

Today was a very good day!....a very good day indeed…

Lots of love,

Throughout this ordeal, there were times when Laurel became fearful, but she said, “I had to believe in love and compassion and the idea that people are here on this earth to take care of one another.”

On August 8th, 2014, Taylor walked out of Healthbridge Children’s Hospital in Orange County.  In the months since, she has continued to work very hard at her rehabilitation and is truly a miracle!  Taylor’s recovery required a village of family and friends who pulled together to allow Taylor’s parents to be with her every day as she recovered.  The community started a fund in Taylor’s name and held fundraisers on the family’s behalf.  Taylor’s family is forever grateful!