BURLINGTON, Ky. -- More than two months after falling bricks and debris put her in a hospital, Valerie McNamara is finally coming home.
The mother, nurse and volunteer religion teacher was chaperoning a field trip Sept. 29 when the roof of a Covington building partially collapsed, injuring her and three other women below.
McNamara, 41, had surgery on her ankles, spine and pelvis; she didn't regain consciousness for a week. Her sisters told WCPO she'll likely never walk again.
For a time, she didn't recognize her husband, Bryan, or their two children, Faith and Brennan.
"To get the diagnosis of her being a paraplegic is difficult, but losing her mind is the most difficult to deal with because you're losing the person," Bryan McNamara told WCPO during an exclusive interview. "To see her come back, and be able to communicate and recognize her family … We've learned to celebrate really small wins."
When McNamara was first hospitalized, she couldn't even respond to pain. Now she can carry on a conversation about whether it's going to snow tomorrow.
"It doesn't sound like much, but when you're experiencing it, it's big," Bryan McNamara said.
The other women also were hospitalized, but only McNamara suffered serious injuries. None of the students, all eighth-graders from Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic School in Burlington, was hurt.
McNamara went to Louisville, Kentucky for therapy at the Frazier Rehab Institute. The facility has a team that specializes in traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. Bryan McNamara said his wife could reach and grasp, and she was improving cognitively, as well.
Valerie’s neurosurgeon advised them to be optimistic but also realistic, he said.
"I think what that says is we need to look for the things she's going to be able to do and how she's going to improve, but we are on a timeline that we can't control," Bryan said. "Her brain will heal as her brain heals, and they will have to measure the significance of her spinal cord injury over time to see what control she can regain."
She's expected to return home Tuesday.
Friends and family are planning some kind of "welcome home" event for her return. They've rallied to support her over the past 10 weeks, holding a 12-hour prayer service at her parish and setting up a fund at Fifth Third Bank to help pay for medical expenses. Xavier University men's basketball coach Chris Mack, a family friend, held a youth basketball camp at St. Henry's athletic complex in October.
Valerie’s Prayer Angels have planned many more fundraisers -- even some scheduled for 2017 -- to support McNamara and her family with the cost of her treatment.
All the support means the world to McNamara's sisters: Sandy Messerly called it "overwhelming."
"The response is something I can imagine because that is who Valerie is. God is working through her to show people to love each other," Messerly said.