Mt. Vernon Register-News

September 10, 2013

Autistic girl makes 'amazing' recovery after carbon monoxide poisoning


CNHI News Service

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A 14-year-old autistic girl whose mother is accused of trying to kill her spent four days "clinging to life" but has made a recovery her father calls "nothing short of a miracle."

Issy Stapleton has been hospitalized since Sept. 3 after authorities said her mother, Kelli Stapleton, locked herself and the girl inside an enclosed van with two burning charcoal grills.

Authorities in the Lake Michigan shoreline community of Elberta found the mother and daughter unresponsive, suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. Issy was taken to a children’s hospital in Grand Rapids, where she was unresponsive for several days.

Meanwhile, her mother was jailed on charges of attempted murder.

Kelli Stapleton wrote a blog that chronicled her experiences battling insurance companies and bureaucracy to secure help for Issy, who her parents describe as both highly intelligent and physically abusive.

Matt Stapleton, Issy’s father and Kelli’s husband, said his daughter’s recovery is giving him new hope in a dark time.

"She's doing amazing," Matt Stapleton said Monday. "These doctors and nurses are also referring it as a miracle. She's a fighter, a tough young lady ... It's a monumental improvement toward her recovery."

Matt Stapleton said doctors removed Issy from a ventilator to see if she'd improve, and within 12 hours she went from a "coma-like" state to talking, walking, making requests and showing glimmers of her old personality.

The last time Stapleton spoke with his wife was when she was transported to the hospital after she and Issy were found unconscious. He spoke to her for "about 30 seconds against police wishes" because she refused treatment.

"(I) said, 'You need to make you sure accept their help,'" he said.

Kelli Stapleton remains in a segregation cell in Benzie County's jail after a judge denied her bond Thursday, citing suicide concerns.

"One thing I know is she's safe where she's at," Matt Stapleton said. "I know she's not a danger to herself."

Matt Stapleton wrote an email statement thanking the public for their concern and prayers.

"In this story, however tragic the details, there will always be a happy ending. Isabelle is alive. With continued support and prayer, she will continue to fight for the best possible recovery," he wrote.

Kelli Stapleton's first court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 16.

Details for this story were reported by The Record-Eagle in Traverse City, Mich.