MEMPHIS ROSE’S SMILE: She’s 7, smart and sparkly — and a ventilator breathes for her

By Kristina Webb
The Palm Beach Post

Memphis Rose Hamman loves rainbows, unicorns and new clothes.

She is obsessed with YouTube and one of its star personalities, JoJo Siwa.

For her 7th birthday, her mom had people come over to paint Memphis’ nails neon colors and weave sparkly threads into her dusky blonde hair.

But where Memphis is like so many other girls her age, she spends her days in a wheelchair, the result of a devastating June car crash that left her with a punctured lung, internal injuries, broken neck and crushed spinal cord.

Memphis is unable to walk or move her arms. A ventilator breathes for her. Memphis’ mother, Gayrene Meade, 30, is her primary caretaker.

They have help from Gayrene’s mother, 57-year-old Tanya Meade, who also was seriously injured in the crash that killed Gayrene’s uncle, 63-year-old Kenneth Graden.

According to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, 38-year-old Scott Simzer of Greenacres was driving west on Lake Worth Road when he rear-ended another vehicle, then crossed the median into eastbound traffic near State Road 7.

Simzer slammed head-on into Tanya’s Scion, the PBSO report said. The Scion was then hit from behind by another vehicle. Simzer died at the scene.

Since the crash, there has been an outpouring of love for the family, with Gayrene maintaining a Facebook group to update the community on Memphis’ ups and downs.

“I think I’ve cried once every single day,” Gayrene said.

Memphis came home in mid-October to the single-family home she and her mother share in the gated Grand Isles neighborhood in Wellington.

Memphis is spunky, curious: She asks Gayrene, what happens if you put that pink Post It into a glass of water? OK, now what if you mix it around with a spoon? The water is pink — can you draw it up into a syringe? Now push the water out fast!”

“She’s extremely smart,” Gayrene said, laughing. “You can’t put anything past her.”

Memphis also has an incredible eye for detail. She watches everything very closely, Gayrene said.

Memphis doesn’t want anything sugar-coated, her mom said: “She likes to have enough information as possible.”

Gayrene speaks frankly about Memphis’ injuries, and answers her daughter’s questions as they arise.

When Gayrene mentioned that Memphis stopped breathing for two and a half minutes after the crash, a thoughtful look came over the girl’s face. She asked her mother, “Is that bad?”

“That’s a long time when it comes to your body not working,” Gayrene said.

They’ve adapted as best they can — but there have been terrifying challenges.

In early November, Memphis’ ventilator malfunctioned. Gayrene and Tanya scrambled to help Memphis breathe, using a bag and CPR to keep her going. Memphis was taken by ambulance to Palms West Hospital, where she was stabilized and spent about a week before returning home.

Gayrene was thankful she spent time working as an emergency medical technician and knows CPR.

“Just do what needs to be done,” Gayrene said. “And then I can cry about it later.”

An additional ventilator would prevent that from happening in the future, she said.

“It would have helped greatly,” Gayrene said, adding that her insurance declined to cover the cost of that backup equipment. “Without it, you’re kind of screwed if it stops working.”

A good Samaritan recently gave Gayrene and Memphis a generator, something Gayrene said alleviated one of her biggest fears: The power going out.

Memphis also needs a stander, a physical therapy device that will help her legs and muscle tone, Gayrene said. It could eventually help Memphis be able to stand on her own.

Also on Gayrene’s list for Memphis is a new couch. Memphis’ physical therapist said being able to get out of the wheelchair and be comfortable is important for Memphis’ physical and mental health. The current couch “is not great for her,” Gayrene said. “The depth, the height, the whole thing.”

Gayrene also is on the hunt for a handicap-accessible van she could use to take Memphis to and from doctor appointments.

“Those things aren’t cheap,” she said of the mobility vans, which usually have electronic lifts. The family now travels in Gayrene’s SUV.

“It’s better than nothing, but…” she said.

Memphis continues to beat the odds.

Right after the crash, doctors told Gayrene to prepare herself — her daughter may not make it.

Then they told her Memphis may not make it through that first night.

Then they told her that if Memphis made it three days, she would have a better chance of survival.

“It’s a testament to who she is,” Gayrene said, smiling.

When Memphis sees children riding their bikes near her house, she tells her mother: “I’m gonna be able to do that one day, too.”

Memphis is getting used to an inflatable cuff that allows her to speak. Though she speaks just above a whisper, she commands a conversation.

She’s grateful, she said, for all the support she and her mom have received.

“Thank you for following along and for cheering me on.”


Gayrene Meade’s daughter, Memphis Rose Hamman, sustained a severe spinal cord injury in a car crash in June. She is paralyzed, and a ventilator helps her breathe. She needs round-the-clock care. Gayrene needs a backup ventilator for Memphis. She also needs a physical therapy tool called a stander, which could someday help Memphis stand on her own. The family needs a new couch with better support for Memphis, and Gayrene is seeking help finding a handicap-accessible van.

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