Kendra Windrix has raised thousands of dollars through her participation charity stair-climb challenges, but now she’s the one in need of help.
Nearly 15 years ago, Windrix was left physically and mentally impaired after she and her mother, Jessie Lachance-Mellon, were involved in a head-on collision. This past fall, Windrix began to struggle with fatigue, weight loss and trouble walking. Her symptoms led to a seven-week stay in the hospital, and doctors eventually arrived at a diagnosis of late neurological onset deficit decline, a rare condition that, according to Lachance-Mellon, occurs in one in 50,000 brain-injury patients.
“Declines like this don’t show up on MRIs,” Lachance-Mellon explained. “They don’t show up on CT scans. They do not show up. You have to put the puzzle pieces together.”
The condition resulted in a dramatic loss of Windrix’s capabilities, and has left her bedridden and in need of around-the-clock care that has put a financial strain on the family.
To help ease some of the strain, Brandy Babin, a friend and colleague of Lachance-Mellon, started a Facebook fundraising effort to offset some of the lost income and costs incurred that are not covered by insurance. Babin and Lachance-Mellon run a nonprofit organization that helps families of fallen first responders, military and medical professionals by providing funding, advice and emotional support.
“Even though we’re far away, we talk every day,” said Babin. “I know how hard it is for Jess financially. She’s given up everything to be with Kendra 24 hours a day. Seeing how fast Kendra declined at that point, I needed to figure something out that I could do to help her. So, I created that fundraiser. That’s what we do for fallen officers’ families.”
Since 2010, Kendra has raised money every year for fallen and injured firefighters by participating in the National Fallen Firefighters Stair Climb Challenge as a way to give back to the firefighters who saved her life.
When firefighters arrived at the accident scene a decade and a half ago, they found Windrix under the driver’s seat, as the force of the collision caused her seat belt to fail. She and her mother were both flown from the accident to local trauma centers, where Lachance-Mellon started a 19-day hospital stay, while Windrix faced a more serious prognosis. Doctors were forced to remove part of her brain, and she was in a coma for months. Windrix was forced to relearn to walk, talk and eat. She wouldn’t have been given that opportunity if it weren’t for the first responders, said Rick Windrix, Kendra’s father, in a 2018 interview with The Press.
Contributions to the fundraiser to help Kendra and her family can be made at bit.ly/thepress_kendra.