CALGARY — Two-year-old Jaclyn Derks was sleeping over at her grandparents' home and had built a typical childhood fort by draping a blanket from a couch to a bed.
Then she tumbled through the top.
The toddler landed on a glass cup on the floor by the bed. The cup shattered and a shard the size of a quarter lodged in the back of her neck. The injury severed her spinal cord in half and left her paralyzed on her left side.
"It's like one in a million ... a freak accident,'' Jaclyn's mother, Kayla Rudichuk, said from Calgary. "I could fall on a glass and it probably wouldn't break. It's just so crazy how it happened.''
Rudichuk, a 25-year-old mother of two, had been out grocery shopping on the night of July 22 when family called to tell her about the accident. She rushed to the hospital and broke down into tears.
"My two-year-old daughter's covered in blood, can't move, has millions of doctors and nurses surrounding her. She's strapped to a bed. They're holding her neck. She's terrified, has no idea what's going on.''
Jaclyn underwent two blood transfusions before a scan revealed the glass piece was still lodged in her spine. That meant surgery was necessary.
"We literally thought we were going to lose her that night,'' Rudichuk said.
After eight hours, doctors gave Rudichuk good news: they were able to remove the glass and Jaclyn was alive. But there was also bad news: she was partially paralyzed. They weren't able to give a prognosis but indicated the paralysis on her left side could be permanent.
Over the last four weeks, Rudichuk said Jaclyn has been resilient. The girl hasn't complained. And she hasn't cried, except to demand apple juice.
She has also surprised doctors with her progress.
"It went from she's never going to walk again to, 'Oh my God! Her toes are wiggling. Her leg is moving! Her arm is moving!''' said her mother.
Jaclyn has regular physiotherapy and occupational therapy sessions. She has been fitted for a leg brace, although she can't yet stand on her own. She is likely to remain at Alberta Children's Hospital for a few more weeks, but could be home in time for her third birthday at the end of next month.
Rudichuk, who works at a car dealership and as an esthetician, plans to take a year off to care for Jaclyn. A GoFundMe campaign had raised $13,000 by Tuesday afternoon.
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She said Jaclyn recently got a weekend pass from the hospital and had a sleepover at home. She played with her five-year-old sister and was thrilled to be bouncing again on her backyard trampoline, even if she had to be held.
At the end of the weekend, she knew she had to leave.
"She said, 'I have to go back to the hospital because I have to get better,''' Rudichuk said.
"She's so amazing. She's such a little fighter.''