A Central Valley High School teenager who nearly lost her life to a blood infection is ready to graduate with her class and become a nurse to help others.
Before November 2015, Brittney Davis was a typical high school senior, spending time with her friends and riding her horse, Cloudy. When she got sick, her family thought maybe she had the flu and took her to Sacred Heart Children's Hospital.
"She went into the hospital... and, we thought she was going to get some fluids and be home later that day," said Brittney's dad Darren Davis. "Then, you end up talking with the doctor and they tell you your daughter may need to go on life support."
Doctors determined Brittney had a life-threatening blood infection. Within hours that day, their worlds turned upside down.
"In the beginning, I wasn't aware of how close I was to basically dying," said Brittney. "When my family told me what was going on, it felt like a dream. I would lay in the bed and think, why am I not waking up from this?"
Saving Brittney's life meant putting her under, in a medically-inducted coma that stretched on for weeks. Her 13-year old sister couldn't even visit her in the PICU at Children's Hospital. Brittney's parents could do nothing but wait.
"You sit by their side and you talk to them and you hold their hand and rub their hand," Darren Davis explained. "It's just what you do, you can't leave them."
While doctors watched over Brittney, the staff at Children's Hospital took care of her family. A chaplain counseled and guided them, as Child Life Specialists worked with her sister to understand what was happening. Some parents would compare it to feeling like a free fall; feeling out of control as your child's life hangs in the balance. The Davis found their safety net in that team of hospital staff.
"When you're upset as a parent and it's hard for you to smile, you can't let your child see that," Darren said. "You have to smile for them as well. That's where they come in and help us out."
As Brittney emerged from that coma, that team was waiting for her, too.
"I think the child life specialists mainly helped me with coping with things," said Brittney. "She would bring me headphones, always offer coloring, things to read. Simple things, just so you're not sitting there in bed, depressed and upset all the time."
With their help, Brittney grew stronger and found something in herself she never knew existed.
"I wish it wouldn't have happened this way, but I feel like I'm a better person and me and my are a lot closer than we ever have been," Brittney said. "I just value my life and things in my life a lot more now."
Every day now, is the future that once felt uncertain. Back in the arena watching her house Cloudy, she seems reminders of what life once was and what lies ahead. In a few weeks, she'll reach a milestone that seemed impossible just a few months ago.
"I'll graduate with my class and I'm hopefully going to walk at graduation," she explained. She's in a wheelchair now and needs to get stronger to walk on her own. But, a favorite teacher has offered to walk with her to mark that important day.
After that, she just wants to get strong enough to ride Cloudy and feel the freedom that comes with life on the back of her horse.
"Seeing her makes me happy," Brittney said, with tears in her eyes. "This is where I like to be; this is my safe place."