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11-year-old Waukesha Christmas parade victim returns home after 24 days in the hospital

Jessalyn Torres
Posted at 8:54 AM, Dec 15, 2021

WAUKESHA, Wis. — Jessalyn Torres, 11, returned home on Tuesday night after 24 days in the hospital.

On Nov. 21, Jessalyn was one of the dozens of people injured when a man drove an SUV into the Waukesha Christmas Parade. Six people died in the tragedy.

"She's very excited to come home. She's very excited to be around her friends and family," said her uncle, Ryan Kohnke.

Jessalyn suffered a broken pelvis and injuries to her lungs and liver. The impact of the SUV also detached one of her kidneys. The 11-year-old spent more than a week on life support before she was strong enough to breathe on her own.

"Her care is going to be long-term," Kohnke said. "To my understanding, it is going to be six to eight months before she's walking on her own regularly."

Her family's next step is to find help installing a permanent ramp on the front of their home after a volunteer effort fell through.

Hours before Jessalyn returned home from the hospital, an area business donated a temporary, foldable aluminum ramp. Kohnke said they're grateful, but they have concerns.

Jessalyn Torres
Jessalyn Torres

"It works great now, but we all know how the Wisconsin winters are," he said. "It's been mild so far, but it can turn on a dime, and you've got a foot of snow on the ground."

The family is worried about ice and snow buildup on the narrow ramp with no railings. They're concerned that Jessalyn could topple over from her wheelchair or when she's using a walker.

Jessalyn Torres
Jessalyn Torres

The porch also bends under the weight of a single person, and the family is also worried the boards may break under the weight of a wheelchair and two or more people helping to move Jessalyn.

On Wednesday, Jessalyn will head back to the Children's Hospital for checkups and to meet with first lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Douglas Emhoff.

"She understands how important they are at her age," Kohnke said. "It will be something for her life to say that she met them."

Jessalyn Torres
Ramp for Jessalyn Torres

This story was originally published by Bruce Harrison on Scripps station TMJ4 in Milwaukee.