Kaitlyn Rose Pilsbury has spent her entire life in restaurants — from waitressing and hosting, to baking, cooking, cleaning and doing everything possible to make sure they ran properly.
She achieved her dream of opening her own restaurant — Rosie’s Café in Escondido — only a few years ago. After being featured on an episode of the Food Network’s “Restaurant: Impossible,” Kaitlyn was enjoying life as a successful restauranteur.
All that changed in December 2019 when Kaitlyn was seriously injured after her motorcycle was struck by an SUV in a hit-and-run accident. She sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as well as broken bones in her legs and arms. After weeks on a ventilator and several surgeries, she was transferred to the Sharp Allison deRose Rehabilitation Center.
When Kaitlyn arrived, she had difficulty walking and communicating. The young, vibrant woman who could once craft gourmet sandwiches in 30 seconds, couldn’t hold a knife or understand a recipe. The rehabilitation team had to develop a specific treatment plan to help Kaitlyn regain her skills.
“With every patient, the initial focus of our treatment plan varies widely, based on the severity of a patient’s injury,” says Lori Davidson, Kaitlyn’s physical therapist. “Sometimes patients need to focus on very basic motor skills, such as being able to sit or stand, before they can address skills related to their previous recreation or employment.”
Kaitlyn had to start with the basics: sitting up in bed, getting around in a wheelchair, weight training to build her core strength, and walking with a walker and, then finally, a cane. She was wearing a neck brace and soft cast on her arm during this time. After almost three weeks, she was ready for the real test: the kitchen.
Kaitlyn wanted to make biscuits and gravy — one of her favorite recipes. Her therapists accompanied her to the grocery store — not only to gather ingredients, but also to evaluate her walking ability, balance, vision, memory and money management.
“Kaitlyn was dynamic and energetic,” says Bernadette Gore, her recreation therapist. “She knows her recipes and it was fun watching her work. And her biscuits and gravy were delicious.”
When Robert Irvine, chef and host of “Restaurant: Impossible,” learned of Pilsbury’s accident, he flew across the country to see how he could help. Irvine and his production team hosted a carnival block party and fundraiser for her in February 2020 in downtown Escondido. They raised over $118,000, with all proceeds going directly to Kaitlyn’s medical care. The carnival was featured in a “Restaurant: Impossible” episode that aired on May 28.
Today, Kaitlyn is walking without assistance and continues to get stronger each day. But with the impact of so much change in her life, along with the current pandemic, Rosie’s Café is permanently closed.
Kaitlyn wishes to thank her loyal employees and customers. “Without you, Rosie’s Café would have never been. Even though it wasn’t easy, we fought through it and I’m grateful for every day we had together,” she says. “You are the heartbeat of Rosie’s Café — my family. I miss you and love you.”
Kaitlyn is not closing the door on opening another restaurant in the future, but is considering a smaller enterprise to sell her favorite pies and cheesecakes; making them is therapeutic for her. In addition, because of her experience at Sharp Allison deRose Rehabilitation Center, she feels inspired to deliver hope to other trauma survivors and become a physical therapist herself.
For now, Kaitlyn is focused on getting stronger through hard work, determination and the therapies she practices every day as she continues to heal. She finds healing peace from her dog Stu, the hummingbirds, and consistent meditation.
“I have moments of downtime, but I take a deep breath and know things will get better,” she says. “I’m grateful I’m alive, continuing to heal and following my own motto: ‘Never, never quit being grateful for your life. I’m new and improved.’”