Children's calms a mom's worst fear

March 12, 2010

Two-year-old Karlee Mears can tell you which horse kicked her. She’ll point it out on her family’s ranch in Mt. Vernon, Texas, and say, ‘He’s mean. He kicks.’ Then she’ll point to her mouth, where the horse’s hoof landed after she accidentally brushed its hind legs one night in October, 2009.

Her parents rushed her to the emergency room nearest their country home right after the accident. “When I walk in the hospital, I have this baby in my arms,” said Karlee’s mother, Geri Ann Mears. “She’s wide awake. Never passed out. But blood is everywhere. All we could see was that she had a cut on her jaw.”

Staff there determined that Karlee’s jaw was broken, but a malfunctioning CT scanner failed three times to reveal if Karlee had brain damage or other broken bones. Geri Ann demanded to be referred to Children’s before the fourth attempt.

"The doctor said, ‘I think we can handle this here,’ and I said, ‘I don’t think you can,’" said Geri Ann. "I’d never been to Children’s, but everybody I know, if something major happened to their child, they would take them to Children’s."

Children’s arrives

The medical staff honored her request and called for help. The Children’s Transport team came and airlifted Karlee and her parents to Dallas. “I can’t name everybody in that helicopter, but they were the four best people I will ever meet in my life," said Geri Ann. "They were great. They consoled me. They helped me not to worry.”

Karlee underwent CT scans and x-rays as soon as she arrived at Children’s — Texas’ first pediatric hospital with a Level I Trauma Center. The tests revealed that there were no other significant injuries besides her broken jaw. Children’s staff performed surgery on Karlee the following day to wire her mouth shut so her jaw would heal properly. Although the news was as good as could be expected, Geri Ann still was anxious seeing her daughter go into surgery. Children’s staff helped put her fears at ease.

“I wasn’t prepared for what she was going to look like coming out of surgery,” said Geri Ann. “But Karlee came out, and her lips were bigger than Angelina Jolie’s. The recovery nurse, who was from our hometown, reassured me that the swelling was going to go down and that she’d look like she did before.”

Just in time for cake and ice cream

The swelling did go down. Karlee had the wiring in her mouth removed after a few weeks of eating only shakes, soups and pudding. She made up for the liquid diet by eating lots of cake and ice cream at her second birthday party a couple of weeks after the wires were removed.

The only evidence left of the accident is a small scar beneath her lips and her pointing to the “mean” horse. But Karlee hasn’t allowed the incident to keep her away from the other eight horses on her family ranch. “She is not scared of horses at all. She just loves them and pets them,” said Geri Ann. And Geri Ann is just grateful that there was a place that could take care of her family in such a traumatic situation.

“Before Children’s got here, I felt like it was a disaster,” said Geri Ann. “But the minute Children’s walked in, it was like Jesus calming the storm. Everything was taken care of.”