WAYNE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 1/31/19 @ 6:28 p.m.
A teen from our region, once thought to be brain dead, is now taking her first steps.
Her parents never wavered, even when everyone else had reason to doubt.
Every journey through life has its milestones. But some steps are bigger than others, like those from Allie Gilkerson.
She’s now a 19-year-old from Wayne County, 17 months removed from a motorcycle wreck that could have taken her life -- from some accounts, perhaps even should have.
It happened the night before her senior year of high school, coming home from marching band practice.
"I would tell her to fight and keep fighting because she has a lot of people waiting on her," said her sister Brittani Gilkerson in August 2017.
There were so many critical injuries, including to trauma to her brain, that it would take seven months just for her to come home. The community didn’t forget, coming out in March 2018 to show their love and support.
"It means the world to us," said Allie’s stepmother, Norma Gilkerson, at the time.
That support that still means everything, even as Allie herself doesn't always understand.
"Why would they cheer me on?" she asked Thursday.
Physical therapy at Cabell Huntington Hospital's SMART Center is five days a week with additional occupational and speech therapy two to three times a week.
It's not fun. But it's doing its job. Seven months ago, she couldn't sit, much less stand.
"The fact that she's made this program in the last seven months is not only surprising, but extremely gratifying," said her physical therapist Jeff Ashton.
Allie said she never thought she’d walk again.
Her right leg is the target with a badly damaged ACL, MCL and meniscus. She needs major surgery, but that can't happen until her knee is stronger.
"It’s absolutely amazing to see her do this," Norma said.
Not every day is a success. But week by week, the progress is undeniable.
"Feels good," said Allie.
It’s leading to something deeper, the will to keep going.
"What's exciting to me is that she's beginning to realize her own potential," Ashton said.
That potential comes closer with every step forward, no matter how painful. Norma always believed this day would happen..
"Yeah, I did,” she said. “You got to have faith. Truly I did."
Brittani spoke for the family 17 months ago when she said, "I just want my sister back."
Now, Norma says, "we've got her back. We're getting her back."
Getting her back one step at a time because there are more milestones to be made.
"She's been on an incredible journey. It's nowhere near finished," Norma said. "One of these days she's going to walk through the doors,”
Doctors will be reevaluating Allie's knee in six months to see if it's strong enough for surgery.
Meanwhile, the driver of the motorcycle she was riding, Connor Smith, was sentenced to two to 10 years in prison for driving drunk.
UPDATE 7/20/18 @ 9:15 p.m.
A young man on Friday was sentenced to prison for crashing his motorcycle while driving drunk and badly injuring a girl who was riding with him.
A Wayne County judge sentenced Connor Smith to two to 10 years in prison and fined him $1,000.
Smith also will have to pay restitution to the family of Allie Gilkerson after he gets out of prison.
Gilkerson spent months in the hospital recovering from injuries suffered in the August 2017 crash. She is now home, but only after extremely costly medical care.
UPDATE 3/20/18 @ 10 p.m.
A community came together Tuesday evening to welcome home a teen who's spent nearly seven months in a hospital in Pittsburgh after a motorcycle crash left her in critical condition.
The crash happened the night before the first day of Allie Gilkerson's senior year at Wayne High School.
Tuesday crowds stood along Route 152 waving and holding signs as an ambulance brought Allie back to her family's home in Genoa.
"It means the world to us," Allie's mother Norma Gilkerson said. "It just shows how much Wayne County cares about us and cares about Allie."
Dozens of classmates stood along the route near Wayne High School.
"Just seeing her and what she's been through, this is a great accomplishment for her," classmate Jade Clark said.
Doctors tell the family Allie should be able to walk again in approximately six months and return to school in the fall.
UPDATE 11/2/17 @ 12:10 p.m.
A man has been charged after a motorcycle accident in August that put a teenage girl in the ICU.
Connor Smith is charged with DUI causing serious bodily injury.
The crash happened Aug. 23 on State Route 152 in Wayne County just north of the county courthouse.
Wayne Police tell WSAZ says the DUI charge is because of alcohol.
Allison Gilkerson was riding with Smith on the motorcycle that crashed.
She was taken to the hospital and listed in critical condition after the crash.
The accident happened the night before the first day of Allison's senior year.
Smith faces 2 to 10 years in prison if he is convicted.
A preliminary hearing date has not been set at this time.
Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.
ORIGINAL STORY 8/24/17
A Wayne County teen spent what was supposed to be her first day of senior year in a hospital ICU room.
Allison Gilkerson, 17, known to her friends as Allie, was thrown from the motorcycle she was riding Wednesday night -- just 90 minutes after a marching band practice.
Now her family hopes she can beat the prognosis and make a full recovery.
"I would tell her to fight and keep fighting because she has a lot of people waiting on her," said Allie’s sister Brittani.
One of Brittani's favorite stories dates back 15 years when she shaved Allie’s head when she was 2.
"She never told anybody it was me,” said Brittani. “Nobody knew I did it. She always stood up for me."
Brittani is just 18 months older than Allie. She says Allie is outgoing, driven and a good person.
She says Allie loves her Ball python and bearded dragon and was thinking of majoring in marine biology at Marshall or WVU.
"I'm proud of her,” said Brittani. “She wanted something and she got it."
Wayne police say the motorcycle crash happened on state Route 152 about a mile north of the courthouse around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. Allie was ejected over the embankment. The driver, Conner Smith, 22, was sent sprawling into the road.
Investigators say both speed and alcohol were factors in the crash. Another motorcyclist in the group was arrested for DUI at the scene.
It was the first day of school Thursday in Wayne County. Principal Sara Stapleton addressed the afternoon marching band class. Allie is a majorette and captain of the color guard.
"Being in band is like being part of a family," said Band Director Tyler Davis.
Davis said Allie came in 90 minutes before Wednesday night’s three-hour practice to work with her team. The practice ended just 90 minutes before the wreck, keeping him up most of the night.
"She's a great leader,” he said. “She has the other girls' best interests in mind always."
A large family, bolstered by friends and other loved ones spent Thursday in the ICU waiting room, hopeful that even with two brain surgeries and a grim prognosis, Allie will keep fighting and beat the odds.
“It's the worst feeling ever,” Brittani said. “I just hope everything is going to be OK with her and she can finish school like she wanted to do and just be the person she was before. I just want my sister back."
Brittani was riding on the other motorcycle but was too upset to talk about what she saw.
As of Thursday evening, Smith, the driver of Alley's motorcycle is stable and listed in fair condition. Alley is listed as critical.
Wayne's first football game is Friday night. It’s a home game and obviously a very raw time for the marching band.
Those who want to will still be there, but attendance will not be mandatory. The band will not march. Someone else will be signing the national anthem in their place before the game.