Thursday, March 5, 2015
“I’m ready to get back on Lucky,” exclaimed the determined 13-year-old Abby Swallow about her horse. From that statement alone, one would never guess what Abby had gone through just a few short months earlier.
On June 4, 2014, Abby and her mother, Amy, were walking Lucky toward their barn. Something spooked Lucky and within a few seconds Abby was pinned between her horse and a tree.
“I was right behind her. I was right there with her,” Amy remembers. And her presence there was truly a gift as she immediately began CPR on Abby while her husband called 911.
Abby was in critical condition, her eye sockets were broken, along with 15 severe skull and facial fractures, and her optic nerve was injured. She was flown via helicopter from her home in Kewaunee to Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay.
Dr. Erik Johnson and Dr. Ryan Murphy were the first physicians to attend to Abby. After assessing the case, they knew she needed surgery immediately. Neurological surgeon Wesley E. Griffitt, MD, performed an emergency surgery to remove a blood clot in Abby’s brain, saving her life.
“There were a lot of prayers for this girl,” commented Amy. After her surgery, Dr. Johnson arranged for her transfer to Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee, again via helicopter. Once there, Abby made a phenomenal recovery with her devoted parents by her side. Her spunky personality and jokes returned quickly.
A gracious return
With cupcakes in tow, Abby and her parents returned to Aurora BayCare Medical Center to thank and hug the doctors and nurses who saved her life.
“She’s a great illustration of how the EMS and trauma system is supposed to work. From the first responders who came literally to the field… we had her within a very short period of time,” said Dr. Johnson.
Back in middle school, the eager teenager has already returned to brushing and feeding her horse. Lucky and Abby truly have an unbreakable bond. The day Abby arrived home, Lucky placed his head lovingly on Abby’s chest – believed as an apology for the accident. Abby’s parents are allowing Abby to return to riding in 2015. For now, they are happy to have their girl back.
Erik Johnson, MD, FACS, is Board Certified in general surgery and in colon and rectal surgery, and practices at Aurora BayCare Medical Center. Dr. Johnson received his education at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and completed two fellowships, one at Ferguson Clinic in colorectal and one at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in oncology. Learn more here.
Wesley E. Griffitt MD, FACS, is a board certified neurosurgeon with BayCare Clinic Neurological Surgeons.