By Steve Jankowski
Illinois Bureau Chief
(KSDK) - It was two months ago that Ashley Reeves, 17, was found in a Belleville Park. The Millstadt teenager had been brutally attacked and left for dead. She not only survived, but her condition continues to improve. But the recovery is a combination of hard work, pain, and, like that of her family, Ashley's determination to never give up.
Last Friday night, Ashley made her first public appearance since her attack at a fundraiser in Columbia, Ill. With the help of her mother and father, she walked the last few steps of a 5K fundraising walk.
"Everyday she amazes me," says her mother, Michelle Reeves. "It's very easy to smile now, and everyone thinks it was a very short road and it hasn't always been that easy."
Michelle Reeves has not spoken much about the night her daughter was found, but as we watched Ashley Reeves go through painful physical and occupational therapy, she wanted to relate just how far her daughter has come.
"The first time I saw her after she was found, they were hitting her in the eyes with Q-tips and had no blink response, no swallow response, or no pain response whatsoever."
Michelle Reeves says she feared the worst.
"I'm thinking this is really going to be bad. There's no way my child is going to come back."
Ashley struggles with using her hands as she works to do everything from unbuttoning buttons to tying her shoes, literally re-teaching her brain things she learned to do as a young child. Her mother is happy her daughter is even moving.
Michelle says that when Ashley was brought to the hospital there was no movement at all.
"After two days of no movement, and praying for movement, we got movement, and it wasn't exactly at all what I expected it to be." As Michelle Reeves put it, "The brain coming back is a scary thing."
The therapists working with Ashley say they sometimes have to push her, but say she a hard-worker who is highly self-motivated.
Occupational Therapist Heather Wilson says, "It'll be hard and she'll look at you a little silly when you try to do it, but she will try it."
Wilson says that's all they can ask of their patients is that they try. She adds when they try, they often discover they can do something they thought impossible.
"That's all we can ask, and she's never once told me no."
On the day we visited with Ashley in therapy, she walked unassisted to her mother for the first time. But Michelle Reeves realizes this could be as good as it gets.
"There's no way of really predicting where it's going to be and I'm still, I have been since the first day, very optimistic for a full recovery." As Michelle put it, "We'll not accept anything less, but I may have to someday."
Michelle also thanks everyone for their prayerful support. As she put it, she believes in the power of prayer and feels like she's being a little greedy about the prayer.
"We need more, we're not quite done," she says.