The story of Gabby Murillo is one of perseverance and community support. The 23-year-old returned home last Thursday after spending over five months in hospitals.
Murillo is a West Haven resident who was participating in her dream internship at Disney Orlando when a June 16 car accident left her paralyzed from the shoulders down. Her C3, C4 and C5 vertebrae were injured as well as other nerves being completely severed. Since the June 15 accident, Gabby has undergone multiple surgeries.
Thursday was an “emotional homecoming” for the Murillo family, who said they appreciated the immediate support they got from the community. Gabby said she was happy to be home and her parents said it was a huge relief.
“We were at Gaylord for six weeks. We were at Shepherd for 13 weeks. Orlando Regional Health was three weeks,” said Gabby’s mother Amanda. “She’s done a wonderful job progressing.”
Gabby is no longer using a trach or a diaphragmatic pacemaker, a device which helped her breath. She is also no longer in need of any medication.
Amanda said it got lonely during their time at the hospitals in Orlando and Atlanta, where she stayed with her daughter the entire time. She described the Murillo family as a close one, enjoying Sunday dinner, and said not being together was hard. She said the family has been focusing on the positives.
Gabby’s father Eric said the immediate outpour of emotional and financial support was unbelievable. The family started a GoFundMe page in order to pay for Gabby’s wheelchair, medical expenses, she and her family’s travel and lodging expenses as well as the addition that needed to be built to accommodate Gabby when she returned home. To date it has raised over $128,000.
“That was a God-sent from the people that donated,” said Eric. “Their heart opened up and they enabled us to do what we did. To be able to have the addition, to be able to get the stuff that we need to get to her, it’s an ongoing expense.”
The family said probably would have had to declare bankruptcy if it was not for the financial support they received. They also said they would not have been able to make their house accessible to Gabby and would have had to move.
The family moved to West Haven almost 34 years ago and said they love the town and the community. But Westies were not the only ones to answer the call for help. The Murillos said they received support from around Connecticut, the country and the world. Gabby said the support was “empowering and motivational.”
The Murillos said the Facebook group, “Gabby Murillo’s Road to Recovery,” has been a great support. Gabby’s sisters said members frequently make inspirational posts relating to how Gabby has inspired them. There is at least one person from each of the 50 states in the group, and many from other countries.
The addition was constructed primarily by Baybrook Remodelers, who donated the bathroom. DeRosa Builders coordinated donations of materials and labor from six other companies who did the excavation and concrete work, roofing and painting.
The construction started in September and finished about two weeks ago. The family said they never thought she would get to be home for Thanksgiving.
“There’s a spiritual part of this too,” said Eric. “That comes together with everything. The spiritual part is amazing. You feel the blessings and prayers from people.”
Eric went on to say the situation has made it easier to push the little things that used to irritate them aside. He said that it’s important not to take anything for granted. He said his daughter being safe is both a spiritual and medical miracle.
“I thank God every day, because this could have been worse,” said Amanda. “A spinal cord is a very serious injury. But I don’t know, since this happened, I’ve just had this feeling in my heart that she’s going to overcome this.”
Eric said the family is taking the situation day by day and is still adjusting. As of now, Amanda is Gabby’s full-time caretaker. But eventually she will have to go back to work and they will need to hire someone.
Gabby said she wanted to thank everyone for the support she received. An early childhood education major, she made a special point to highlight the cards she got from children in the West Haven parks and recreation department, which she said meant a lot.