Healthy Kids - Winter 2023

W When the Ward family set off on a vacation to Northern California for the Independence Day holiday in 2021, they had no idea that the trip would take a terrifying turn. On July 3, Ella Ward was a passenger in a six- seat ATV being driven by her father, Sam, when the ATV unexpectedly overturned, pinning the 8-year-old’s arm underneath the roll bar. While the rest of the vehicle’s occupants escaped unscathed, the ATV slid, injuring Ella’s arm even further, until three adults were able to turn it upright and get Ella to safety. What happened next was a whirlwind for the little girl and her parents, who were vacationing on a ranch an hour’s drive from the nearest children’s hospital. “Ella’s arm was broken in between her wrist and elbow,” Sam recalls. “Not only that, but because of the movement of the ATV, she lost 50 percent of the muscle and 75 percent of the skin on her right forearm. So, along with the open broken bones, her arm was full of dirt, rocks and bacteria. It was mangled.” An ambulance transported the family to a hospital in Fresno. When they arrived, Sam says, “there was a flood of doctors and they were all extremely concerned—they didn’t know how they were going to address it.” Ella was rushed into surgery. The surgeon, who’d been in the military, told the Wards that his plan was to treat Ella as if she were a soldier with a war wound.

“That’s how bad it was,” Sam says. “He said, ‘I know how dangerous this is and I’m going to hit it hard and treat it for infection.’ That’s how they started—cleaning the arm, treating infection and performing lifesaving measures.” At this point, the Wards and Ella’s doctors were unsure if they would be able to save her life, let alone her arm.


“I am certain that if this accident had happened in many other states, Ella would have died from the severity of her injury,” her mother, Lindsey, says. “In most places, her arm would have been immediately amputated. We didn’t know for a while if hers would have to be—it was always a possibility.”

Ella underwent several surgeries in Fresno while her medical team decided on the best course of action. Doctors cleaned her wound and put her bones together with titanium rods. Then, they searched for another team of experts to take over the remainder of the extensive care Ella was going to need to repair her nerves, muscle and skin.

LEFT: Child Life Specialists helped make Ella’s stay more fun RIGHT: Ella with her piggy pal following skin graft surgery


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