By Guest Blogger Bob Gfeller, Executive Director of the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma
In November 2014, the Broughton family was visiting downtown Winston-Salem to host a conference at the convention center. They were joined by their then 10-year-old daughter Weezie and staying at the hotel across the street. On the morning of November 22, Weezie was with her mother, Holley, at the convention center and told her mom she was going back to the office inside the convention center to wait for lunch.
Unfortunately, Holley quickly learned that Weezie had changed direction and decided to cross the street outside. She heard a commotion and the conference attendees told her there had been an accident. She ran as fast as she could onto Fifth Street where a crowd was gathered. Weezie had just been hit by a car and an ambulance had already been called. She was sitting up and obviously injured. Her face was bleeding, there was blood on her dress and it was torn.
The ambulance quickly arrived and Holley rode with Weezie the short distance to Wake Forest Baptist Health’s Brenner Children’s Hospital. The emergency workers explained that Weezie had a head injury.
The family gathered at the hospital and prayed for good news. Weezie was stabilized and eventually moved up to the pediatric ICU. Although much of the experience is a blur, Holley remembers talking with Dr. Tom Pranikoff who said although Weezie looked bad and it would be a long night waiting for her to wake up from the anesthesia, she would survive. They still didn’t know if Weezie would have brain damage from her head injury and were anxious for her to wake up.
When Weezie was about 6 years old, she and Holley started a code: when they were holding hands, whoever starts to squeeze would squeeze three times for “I love you” and the other person would squeeze back four times for “I love you, too.” Throughout that long first night, Holley often squeezed “I love you” but there was no response. At about 3 a.m., Weezie still hadn’t woken up and everyone was getting more concerned. When she finally started to wake up, Holley tried again, squeezing “I love you.” After a few minutes, Weezie finally squeezed back four times “I love you, too.” Holley 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.
As the multiple specialists inspected her injuries, the Broughtons could see Weezie’s feisty personality returning. They were relieved that she passed the neurological tests. Thanksgiving was only a few days away and Weezie was determined to get released in time for their big family’s Thanksgiving celebration. There wasn’t a dry eye around the table when they shared that year’s abundant thanks and blessings.
Before the Broughtons left the hospital, Dr. Pranikoff emphasized how serious Weezie’s head injury was and how lucky they were that Brenner Children’s Hospital was only four minutes from where Weezie was hit. He said if they had been somewhere else it could have been a different story and that many children die daily from these injuries. Holley says, “We absolutely know that being close to a Level I pediatric trauma center made THE difference in Weezie’s outcome.”
Weezie continues 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 a difference in their experience. Saturday, November 22 was an awful day for the Broughton family and they admit they were shaken to their core. Holley adds, “We were also blessed beyond measure by the excellent, kind and outstanding care Weezie received at Brenner’s. We will be forever grateful.”
Louisa “Weezie” Broughton is a pediatric trauma survivor. The Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma discovers and shares the best ways to prevent and treat severe injuries in children so that more injured kids will also survive and thrive.
To help raise funds and awareness for the Childress Institute, NASCAR driver Austin Dillon is hosting a 3-on-3 Celebrity Basketball Tournament presented by Dow at High Point University’s Millis Athletic & Convocation Center on Tuesday, November 3. The 16-team, double-elimination tournament will start at 3 p.m. and the final game will start at 7:30 p.m. General admission is $5. Learn more at https://saveinjuredkids.org/.