Traumatic Brain Injury: Jasmin's Story

Pediatric Care in Florida
Jasmin at a recent physical therapy session with her brother Cruz and physical therapy assistant Nicole Visokay at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital
Jasmin at a recent physical therapy session with her brother Cruz and physical therapy assistant Nicole Visokay at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital.

It was a typical workday for Cruz Cervantes on June 23, 2022. He was a crane operator on a local construction project when he got the phone call.

His parents, grandparents and little sister, all from Wimauma, Florida, had been in an accident while visiting family in Guanajuato, Mexico. A bus hit the family's pickup truck head-on, killing everyone except for his 12-year-old sister, Jasmin Cervantes-Garcia. But she had been critically injured and was clinging to life.

Cruz left work immediately and headed quickly to Mexico with his siblings.

Once at the hospital, they were relieved that Jasmin was still alive. “The medical staff there were limited in what they could do for her because of the extent of her injuries. It was hard to see my sister struggling to survive,” he says.

In order for Jasmin to have the best chance of recovery, Cruz and his family knew they had to get Jasmin back to the United States where she could get the specialized medical care needed to save her life. Their family was familiar with Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, since other family members had been patients at the hospital over the years. On July 12, 20 days after the accident, thanks to generous donors, the family secured a Tampa-based air ambulance company to bring Jasmin back home.

Jasmin having physical therapy

Aboard that medical jet was nurse Carron Pearce and respiratory therapist Glenn Hull from the hospital’s LifeLine critical care transport team that provides emergency medical services through ground and air transportation. 

“We saw pictures of the accident before we left for Mexico, so we knew how serious it was,” Hull says. 

Once they landed in Mexico, an ambulance was waiting to whisk the LifeLine team to the hospital. As soon as they arrived at Jasmin’s bedside, Hull and Pearce began their patient assessment and transitioned her to medical equipment and monitors they brought that could monitor her heart rate and blood pressure along with a pulse oximeter that measured the oxygen level in her blood. They also put her on a tracheostomy mask that provided humidified oxygen.

“Even though Jasmin was non-responsive, we were pleasantly surprised how medically stable she was, considering the extent of her injuries,” Hull says. After less than 45 minutes at the hospital, Jasmin and the LifeLine team were in the ambulance headed back to the waiting jet.

“It’s not always that easy to enter and exit a foreign county that quickly due to regulations and immigration,” Pearce says. “But Jasmin’s family had passports and other international documents ready to go. This helped expedite the process. It was also beneficial that the family spoke Spanish and could help translate. It made the transfer process go even smoother,” Pearce says.

Jasmin having physical therapy

The three-hour flight back to Tampa was noneventful. “We had no unexpected medical issues in flight. We monitored her vitals and made sure she was comfortable,” Pearce says. 

Once the jet landed in Tampa, another member of the Johns Hopkins All Children’s LifeLine team was there to meet them with a critical care transport ambulance that would take Jasmin right to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital where a group of highly specialized trauma physicians, surgeons and nurses were waiting for her.

“She arrived here with a traumatic brain injury, a liver laceration, lumber spine injury, multiple abdominal injuries, bone fractures and chest injuries, which required several surgeries,” says Luis Rodriguez, M.D., a neurosurgeon and one of several physicians who cared for Jasmin. 

Thanks to the work of these dedicated physicians and nurses, Jasmin made enough progress to be released from the hospital in November, just over four months after the accident. But her recovery still has a long way to go.

“The traumatic brain injury caused her to have weakness in her left arm and leg. Physical therapy helps to improve her mobility, coordination and balance, and occupational therapy helps improve skills for daily living,” says Michelle Schultz, P.T., D.P.T. 

Jasmin and her brother Cruz

“As a result of her head injury, Jasmin has aphasia, which causes difficulties in the understanding and use of language. She also frequently struggles to find the words she needs to communicate effectively,” says Paige Cothran Hampton, a speech-language pathologist and feeding therapist who is working with Jasmin. Speech therapy is helping her with strategies to improve these skills.

Memory is still an issue for Jasmin, but she can now make her wants and needs known. “The true strength of Jasmin is she loves people, and she loves to communicate,” Cothran Hampton says.

“She’s starting to walk on her own, with some assistance. We learned that she was a really good volleyball player before the accident, so we have incorporated some volleyball skills in her therapy plan. It’s neat to see that she still has those techniques. It came back very naturally to her.”

“Jasmin is the perfect example of the complex patient we treat at Johns Hopkins All Children’s,” Rodriguez says. “We have the full spectrum of physicians and services needed to maximize her ability to recover.”

Her brother, Cruz has gone from crane operator to her guardian, principal caregiver and #1 cheerleader.

“Cruz has been amazing,” Cothran Hampton says. “He has the right level of love, humor and support Jasmin needs. He knows what challenges and motivates her.”

“The day of the accident was the last day I worked (a paid job),” Cruz says. “Dedicating my time to Jasmin and dealing with my parents’ estates takes up most of my time these days. I am happy to have help from my siblings and extended family. It’s been life-changing for all of us.”

“Our family is grateful for the medical team at Johns Hopkins All Children’s and everyone in the community who has reached out and kept Jasmin in their thoughts,” Cruz says. “All that positive energy has contributed to her recovery. People we don’t even know have been rooting for her recovery. That shows that there is still some good in the world.”

Treatment Pediatric Physical Therapy

The team of skilled pediatric physical therapists at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, evaluates and provides treatment for infants, children and adolescents with problems that affect the musculoskeletal system. Your child may need physical therapy to help with a chronic condition, developmental delay, or recovery from traumatic injury, sports injury or surgery.