‘Lani, my baby girl. Please wake up.’ Her eyes rolled to the back of her head. I dropped to my knees and just screamed.’: Little girl survives go-cart accident, ‘She is embracing her new normal’

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“On October 27, 2018, around 4:30 p.m., our lives changed forever. Hearing the words ‘your daughter may not make it’ was the most frightening statement that you can hear as a parent. I’m sure of it. She was only four years old.

Courtesy of Macie Use

The day of the accident, we were celebrating my 24th birthday with friends and family. It started as a normal day, like any other. We went to my parent’s house next door and little Lani played outside with her uncle and daddy while my mom and I prepared supper for my birthday dinner. While we were in the kitchen, my uncle decided to test out my brother’s go cart.

Lani was at the age where she was able to ride it and could control it. This was a children’s go cart that has been in my family for about 18 years. We all rode it. So, when Lani asked my if she could ride, of course I said yes. I tied Lani’s long beautiful light brown hair in a tight bun and sent her outside with her daddy and uncle. I was eight months pregnant and in Louisiana it’s still hot, so I remained inside, cooking.

Courtesy of Macie Use

Nonetheless, my mother came inside to get me because Lani was just so excited about riding that she wanted me to see. I proceeded outside with my mom and aunt. Lani was riding in my grandparent’s yard and her daddy Jacob was right at her side the whole time. I remember Lani laughing and smiling saying, ‘Mommy this is my first time! I’m having so much fun!’

Next thing you know, we took out our phones and started recording. I said, ‘Lani, let mommy fix your hair.’ She stopped the go cart, I fixed her hair, and I turned around to go inside because I was having contractions. As I’m turning around, Lani starts up again and presses the gas. That’s when it happened. I heard the engine shut off. My mother and husband scream.

In that moment, I was so terrified to turn around. My world had stopped. Time stopped. My husband ran to her screaming, ‘Lani, my baby girl! Please wake up!’ My mother is holding her scalp to her head and screaming for a knife, towel, scissors. My aunt is calling 911. My step-dad and uncle noticed the motor belt popped off and attached to Lani’s hair and pulled her back, scalping her whole right side of the head and also crushing her skull. Lani was not moving and was completely unconscious for several minutes.

My mother cut Lani free and she opened her eyes. She said, ‘’I need mommy.’ Her eyes were rolling to the back of her head. The ambulance still had not arrived. We live down the street from the hospital so my aunt got her car and we drove there as fast as we possibly could. My heart was racing so fast. I kept telling Lani to stay awake. We prayed as we drove to the hospital. My husband and my step-dad stayed back and waited for the police and ambulance to arrive.

As we got to the hosptial, the nursing staff was waiting. I hear one the doctors say, ‘This is critical. She needs a CT scan. Call the Children’s Hospital in New Orleans!’ As they take my baby away, I’m left in the room with a nurse and my aunt. Due to me being pregnant, I could not go in the CT room, so my mother went instead. At this point, I’m shaking, crying, nauseous. Everyone coming in and out of the room is trying to figure out a plan.

Finally, after what seems like an eternity, Lani comes back. She’s awake and calling for me: ‘Mommy, I’m scared.’ I comfort her, hugging and kissing her. The doctor comes in and says, ‘She has an open skull fracture and injury to her brain.’ In the moment, I drop to my knees and just scream cry. I couldn’t control myself. I couldn’t believe this happened to my baby girl. The nurses started a IV with antibiotics and prepped her for transport.

My whole family waited in the waiting room scared, speechless, in disbelief. The flight team came in and told me 1 person could fly with her. My other aunt who is a nurse agreed to go because I was pregnant and my husband was in no shape to fly. He was in hysterics as he watched what happened to Lani. The doctor told us she would need surgery, but he couldn’t tell us if she would make it or not. Hearing those words just changed our life. I don’t think I had any emotion.

I cried the whole way to New Orleans as her father and I prepared for the worse. We arrived at the hospital moments after Lani. She was in the trauma room hooked up to a cardiac machine and oxygen. Her vitals were not stable. We met the neurosurgeon and he explained to us how severe this injury was. ‘When she wakes up from surgery, she may not be the same.’ He also mentioned that she will take a long time to heal.

Courtesy of Macie Use

My whole family slept in the pediatric ICU waiting room that night. My husband and I stayed by Lani in the ICU the whole night. Her oxygen level was dropping and the nurses were coming in and out every 10 mins. At one point, I looked at my husband and said, ‘Our baby is strong she will recover from this.’ Lani was awake but very confused. The surgery team came get her around 7:30 am. The ICU waiting room was silent as we waited 5 long hours.

Finally, the surgeons came out and Lani was in recovery. They were able to save her skull by putting 10 dissolvable plates in her head and fix the laceration on her brain.

Courtesy of Macie Use

We stayed four nights in the ICU to make sure Lani was stable and her pain was controlled. When she awoke, she looked at me and said, ‘Mommy, the angels were with me.’ And from that day on, I knew god had protected our baby girl.

Our healing process has had its ups and downs.

Courtesy of Macie Use
Courtesy of Macie Use

Lani’s hair has not completely grown back. She can walk, talk, and write. However, she has started to experience seizures and was officially diagnosed with Epilepsy and PTSD. This whole time, Lani has been so strong and never once cried. She’s embraced her new hair and new beginning.

Courtesy of Macie Use
Courtesy of Macie Use
Courtesy of Macie Use

Tragic accidents happen and sometimes you can’t prevent them. It’s something you have to overcome together as a family and move on from. We are starting a new journey with Epilepsy and PTSD. Lani is a walking miracle and I want to share her story with everyone. There is hope in life. You are not alone. You can overcome.”

Courtesy of Macie Use
Courtesy of Macie Use

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Macie Use of Houma, Louisiana. You can follow her on Facebook and her family journey on YouTube. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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