BLUFFTON, S.C. (WTOC) - One Lowcountry family had an extra reason to be thankful this holiday season. After a traumatic brain injury, their pre-schooler has nearly made a full recovery.
November 17 turned into a nightmare for the Merrick family as their four-year-old daughter was hit in the head by a falling tree branch and airlifted to Memorial Hospital in Savannah, but after a miraculous recovery, the nightmare became more of a Christmas miracle.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at her, but just over a month ago, Mirella Merrick was in a very different place.
“She was not responsive. She was turning blue, so we had to mess with her and keep her from falling asleep and I had to give her mouth-to-mouth to keep the airway open, because she was turning blue, I figured no oxygen was getting to her brain," said Sonia Merrick, Mirella’s mother. "They said ‘a helicopter is waiting for you in the middle of 278 and we’ve got traffic stopped both ways’ and it was just surreal. The whole thing was just surreal.”
A dead tree branch had fallen some 30 feet while the family was going for a Sunday walk in the nearby wooded area and hit Mirella in the head, knocking her unconscious.
“We get to the hospital and they start telling us she’s in a coma and they’ve got her on life support and it was like the scariest words I’ve ever heard in my life,” Sonia said.
Mirella had a fractured skull and eye socket, as well as a concussion and a brain bleed.
“Slowly through that week that we were in ICU, like she was actually going to be O.K., but for three days, she was just with the oxygen tubes and not really responsive to anything," Sonia explained. "So to go from that just about a month ago, to now playing and dancing, she’s back to her regular self.”
Mirella’s dad, Lee, agreed.
“Clearly a miracle. You know, I think prayer works. I think people’s positive energy works.”
Mirella walked out of the hospital a week later, and was even able to dance at her Christmas recital, remembering all the steps. She is still more tired than normal, and has some sensitivity from her concussion, but for the most part, is back to being a typical four-year-old.
Her family said having her with them at Christmas was the best gift they could have asked for.
“Just love your babies and be thankful for what you’ve got," Lee added with a laugh, as Mirella jumped into his lap.
On Sunday, December 29, there will be a Bluffton Family Winterfest to help raise money for Mirella’s extensive medical bills. Some of the proceeds will also go to the family of Ameer Frazier, the five-year-old killed at the Bluffton Christmas parade, to help with funeral expenses.
The event will be at Oscar Frazier Park (77 Shults Road, Bluffton, S.C.) from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and will have live music, a petting zoo, pony ride, bounce houses, food trucks, craft vendors and more.