Pediatric trauma survivors, Meredith (left) and Weezie (right) with Taylor Swift
In November 2014, my daughters, Weezie (11) and Julia (15), my husband and I were in downtown Winston-Salem hosting a conference at the convention center. We were staying at the hotel across from the convention center and there is a walking tunnel under the conference center to access the hotel. During our outings on previous days, Weezie would use the tunnel to go back to the hotel from the Convention Center.
On that morning, Weezie was with me at the convention as we were getting ready to pack things up. As it got closer to lunch, Weezie and I were in the large convention hall and I told her I needed to check in with the event support staff and let them know the plans for lunch. Weezie told me she was going back to the office inside the convention center.
As I stood at the desk of the convention, it was crowded and people were starting to go out on the street for the lunch break. Suddenly I felt the atmosphere in the room change. I heard our bishop say “where is she now?” I knew something had happened and it was affecting me.
I ran as fast as I could out onto Fifth Street. When I got to the street there was a crowd gathered. Weezie had just been hit by a car as she was trying to cross the street in front of the convention center. She was sitting up and obviously had been injured. Her face was bleeding, there was blood on her dress and it was torn.
She was out of her mind and combative, asking “where’s my mom, where’s my mom?” I immediately got to her and said “Weezie, I’m here, I’m here,” but she was still disoriented and agitated. The ambulance arrived about the time I reached her and I rode with her the short distance to Wake Forest Baptist Health’s Brenner Children’s Hospital. She was reassured by the ambulance workers and when we got to the hospital they tried to calm her down. They explained it was probably part of her head injury, but Weezie is very feisty.
My husband and our other children met us at the hospital and we waited and prayed. Weezie is the youngest of four children. Eventually a nurse told us Weezie had been stabilized and was doing fine. At some point she was moved up to the pediatric ICU. Although much of the experience is a blur, I remember clearly that first night talking with Dr. Tom Pranikoff who said although Weezie looked bad from her head trauma and facial injuries, and it would be a long night waiting for her to wake up from the anesthesia that she was going to be okay. I clung to that so much. We didn’t know if she would have brain damage from her head injury and we were so anxious for her to wake up.
When Weezie was about 6 years old we started a code: when we were holding hands, whoever starts to squeeze, they squeeze three times for “I love you” and the person squeezes back four times for “I love you, too.” During that long first night I talked and sang to her. She loves Taylor Swift so I played some of her favorite songs on my phone. Every so often I would squeeze “I love you” but there was no response. At about 3 am, Weezie still hadn’t woken up. The nurses were a little worried, and I was beyond worried. When she finally started to wake up, again I squeezed “I love you.” After a few minutes, she finally squeezed four times “I love you, too.” I thought okay, she’s here! Somehow that shared squeeze registered somewhere in her injured brain and she was able to come back to me.
Weezie was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, multiple facial fractures, and a hip fracture. She was in the Pediatric ICU for two days before being transferred to the Intermediate Care Unit. Weezie saw multiple doctors in a variety of pediatric specialties, including Orthopedics, Ophthalmology, Neurology, and Ear, Nose and Throat, just to name a few.
Weezie is very forthright and if you’re bothering her she’s going to tell you. Her eye was very swollen and the doctors would have to peel it open. As she let them know how much that bothered her, we could see her personality coming back as time progressed. The doctors did a neurological test on her and she did well. Thanksgiving was in a few days and Weezie was bound and determined to get released in time for our big family Thanksgiving. There wasn’t a dry eye around that table when all eighteen of us shared the year’s abundant thanks and blessings.
All of the doctors at Brenner were so kind to Weezie and us. Before we left the hospital, Dr. Pranikoff emphasized how serious Weezie’s head injury was. He told us how lucky we were that the hospital was only four minutes from where Weezie was hit. He said if we had been somewhere else it could have been a different story and that many children die daily from these injuries.
“We absolutely know that being close to a Level I pediatric trauma center made THE difference in Weezie’s outcome.”
We continue to have checkups for the fractures around her eyes and regular MRIs to make sure she is healing correctly. Having these resources and specialists specifically for children made such a difference in our experience. Saturday, November 22 was an awful day for our family and we were shaken to our core. But we were also blessed beyond measure by the excellent and kind and outstanding care Weezie received. We will be forever grateful.
– Holley Broughton, mom to 12-year-old Louisa “Weezie” Broughton, a pediatric trauma survivor
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