family surrounds teenage daughter, all in a group hug outside smiling broadly

Despite having a lingering painful headache, 15-year-old Ricki Rae Guess was determined to get her nails done for high school homecoming. The Guess family could not imagine how quickly their lives would change that day on October 1, 2021.

Only hours later, Ricki Rae’s dad, Donnie, called 9-1-1 after Ricki Rae’s headache turned into profuse vomiting — she was having a stroke.

Because of her worsening situation, paramedics knew they had to take her to Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital. “I will never forget the paramedics said, ‘we’re losing her,’” says Ricki Rae’s mom Shellie.

Scans showed a large mass of blood around Ricki Rae’s brain — she needed a craniotomy, but there was a chance she wouldn’t survive.

Because of that risk, her family said goodbye. “I remember kissing her and saying, ‘please don’t leave me, not yet. We have not had enough time,’” Shellie says.

Everyone thought that I was just going to be a vegetable.

-Ricki Rae

The surgery was successful, but it was only one of three Ricki Rae would have to undergo while in the hospital. Her journey was far from simple, from taking small steps to heal, to being completely paralyzed with no movement or feeling on her left side, to battling infection. However, Ricki Rae finally returned home on Christmas Eve.

Dr. Aaron Robison, one of Ricki Rae’s neurosurgeons, and the staff at Children’s Hospital helped the Guess family find peace during such an uncertain situation. “I will forever be grateful for Dr. Robison and his team,” she says. “Without him, I really believe our daughter would not be here today.

Shellie says it takes an entire community to make Children’s Hospital as good as it is — apart from the medical staff, many other things brought joy and healing to Ricki Rae, including someone’s donation gift of a sunshine box, receiving a gingerbread house to decorate at Christmas time, and the volunteer dog visits.

“We know there’s something really special about Ricki Rae, because she had so many opportunities to leave us,” Shellie says. “I’m honored to be her mom, and I can’t wait to see what life has in store for her.”