Healthy Kids - Winter 2023


A week after the accident, the Wards left Fresno to head home to San Diego and meet with Katharine Hinchcliff, MD, a plastic surgeon at Rady Children’s and an assistant clinical professor at the UC San Diego School of Medicine who specializes in reconstructive surgery, pediatric and adult upper extremity surgery and peripheral nerve surgery. “They originally wanted us to go to Stanford, but when we told them we lived in San Diego, they found Dr. Hinchcliff. They interviewed her and felt that she would be even better at getting Ella’s hand to work again,” Sam explains. The family drove back to San Diego with Ella medicated and with a special vacuum to drain the open wound on her splinted arm. “She was like a china doll, she was so fragile,” Sam says. “We left without them being able to find her radial artery. She still had 50 percent muscle loss and most of her skin missing. But they said she had an 80 percent chance of keeping her arm.” Still, Lindsey adds, “We were told that even if she kept her arm, there wouldn’t be any function.”

The Wards arrived at Rady Children’s with hope that Dr.


Hinchcliff would have a plan not only to save Ella’s arm, but to help her regain as much function as possible. They quickly learned

them give up hope. You have to put all the pieces of the puzzle and come up with a summation that’s not going to overwhelm them.” Dr. Hinchcliff wasn’t able to devise a plan for reconstruction until she could evaluate Ella’s arm in the operating room. But despite the stress of not knowing what the future held, the Wards trusted that they were in the best hands with Dr. Hinchcliff and the team at Rady Children’s. “Even before meeting her, we knew she was an incredible person just based on her experience— and she was,” Lindsey says. “She was incredible with her communication with us—we were able to reach her at any time—and treating us not just as patients, but as parents.”

that with an injury as severe as Ella’s, with such a high risk of infection, the best plan is to have no plan at all. “The most difficult thing for a kid with this type of injury is trying to give them and their family a realistic idea of the prognosis and picture ahead when you don’t know for sure what that’s going to be,” Dr. Hinchcliff says. “Trying to tell a concerned family what to expect is a skill we all develop and are continually working on as trauma surgeons. “You don’t want to paint too rosy a picture and get a family’s hopes up,” she adds. “And you don’t want to paint too bleak a picture and have


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