Posted on: June 18, 2018 at 1:52 pm
Last updated: July 20, 2018 at 12:53 pm

On May 2, seven-week-old McKenna Hovenga was at her daddy’s softball game in Shell Rock, Iowa. On that Wednesday, like any other day, McKenna’s mother, Kassy, was breastfeeding her when a softball was thrown foul and struck the baby’s head. Immediately, she was hospitalized and quickly transferred to St. Mary’s Hospital at the renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota with skull fractures, two brain bleeds, and several seizures.

“[McKenna’s father, Lee,] has his back to the field and never saw the ball coming. We’re really not sure as it happened so fast… Neither of us saw the ball as it came over the fence.”

No matter how it happens, this is every parent’s nightmare. At less than two-months-old, McKenna’s outlook looked grim. With such a fragile and developing brain, having to put your baby on anti-seizure medication is a tough pill to swallow.

Healing for McKenna

However, after only 48 hours, she was still in critical condition but stable enough for doctors to begin weaning her off the seizure medication. Still, though, McKenna required a breathing tube through all treatments and surgery she received.


Within a few weeks, on May 24, her extubation process begin to see if she could tolerate breathing on her own, vent-free. After about half a day, she began having breathing trouble, so the doctors turned her on her stomach to help naturally excrete fluids without using suction.

Doctors suspected her lung airways were inflamed and suggested that McKenna do a bronchoscopy. What they found was that her airways had a buildup of tissue because of irritation that the breathing tube had caused. (You can see the amazing change in the image below.)

“The first photo in the picture attached shows the narrowing of the airway. The last photo shows how it looks now that they have removed all of the granular tissue. And the absolutely awesomeness news ever???? McKenna is off EVERYTHING breathing related,” said McKenna’s great-aunt.

“McKenna is off nasal cannula!!! She’s off the Heliox!!! She’s off the CPAP!!! She’s off it ALL and breathing and resting comfortably for the first time since they took her off the vent!!!!! I cannot express how HUGE this is!!! We were very worried that her troubles were related to her brain injury and we are so very thankful that this is not the case!”

Time to Go Home

On June 11, doctors gave the Hovenga family the all-clear to take McKenna home – just one day after she turned three-months-old. And what better way to go home than with open eyes and a baby girl who has started to track her mother’s face and voice more and more each day.

Kassy, Lee, and McKenna’s great aunt continue to give daily updates on McKenna’s health progress on their Facebook page (Healing for McKenna) and website of the same name. With hospital and treatment bills still racking up, however, the Hovenga family has also set up a YouCaring page to raise support for McKenna’s continued help and hospital care.

“If people feel led to donate, that’s great,” McKenna’s family gratefully expressed. “But the power of prayer cannot be understated.”

Life’s biggest blessings don’t always come beautifully packaged and ribbon-wrapped. McKenna’s journey to recovery is a testament to that, but you can bet her story has been and continues to be an encouragement to people everywhere.

Here’s a video of McKenna’s incredible journey published on June 18, 2018 by her great aunt:


UPDATE: McKenna is Home Safe, But Is Still Facing Challenges

On July 19, Kassy announced on her Facebook page, “Healing for McKenna” that she suspected McKenna was experiencing some tough withdrawal symptoms from attempts to wean her off of Gabapentin. You can read her full thoughts below:

Next Article: Volunteers Needed! Knit or Crochet a Tiny Red Hat for a Baby


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