When Amanda Eiswerth went for a visit to her grandparent’s house, no one suspected that a fun night outside with family would turn into a life and death battle.
In February 2011, Amanda, 11, of Valley Cottage, N.Y., was visiting her grandparent’s home in Trout Run. Eager to spend time outside with family members, Amanda dressed warmly and headed outside to go snowmobiling.
What happened in the next few minutes changed Amanda’s life forever. During the ride, Amanda was thrown from the snowmobile and landed on a piece of farm equipment. Shaking, dizzy and extremely tired, Amanda was taken into the house with her parents, Michael and Michele Eiswerth.
“I remember when my dad rode me back and he asked me if I could walk and I tried standing up and I couldn’t,” Amanda said. “He carried me in and laid me down on the floor in the hallway.”
Michele was very worried when she noticed a large bruise on her daughter’s hip.
“With a bruise this large already, something might be seriously wrong,” Michele remembers thinking. She immediately called an ambulance.
During the ambulance ride, family members were alarmed after noticing a large gash on Amanda’s leg from her knee to her thigh. Although the wound appeared to be severe and further troubled Michael and Michele, the family would soon find out that Amanda’s gash was the least of their worries.
Amanda was taken to a nearby hospital where doctors examined her leg wound and ran additional tests. Soon after a CT scan was performed, Michael and Michele noticed a group of doctors gathering around to talk.
Doctors soon emerged to inform them that Amanda had bruising on her spleen and kidney. Worst of all, they hinted that there may be a rupture in the girl’s aorta. With time quickly running out, doctors at the hospital decided Amanda would need specialized help. She was transported by Life Flight® to Janet Weis Children’s Hospital at Geisinger in Danville.
Upon Amanda’s arrival at Geisinger, Charles Benoit, M.D., Director of Cardiac Surgery at Geisinger Medical Center, already well aware of Amanda’s condition, was waiting. After reviewing the previous CT scan results, he acknowledged that Amanda had a severe tear in her aorta, an injury, rare in children, known as traumatic aortic rupture. Amanda was rushed into surgery for three very long hours.
“The goal was to get her as quickly as possible, having already bled from this, to the operating room and get control of it and hopefully repair it rather than replace that part of the aorta that was torn,” Dr. Benoit said. “She needs to grow and therefore it needs to grow and anything that I can put in there that’s not hers isn’t going to grow.”
Michael and Michele were terrified, as they realized the severity of their daughter’s condition. All they could do was hope for a miracle.
Although the surgery was very risky, Dr. Benoit successfully repaired the tear in Amanda’s aorta. When asked about Amanda’s condition, he talks about its rarity.
“This injury is not at all common in children,” he said. “Ninety percent of the time an injury like this is fatal at the scene.”
In fact, Amanda was the only child Dr. Benoit had ever seen with this injury in 30 years of cardiac surgery.
Still, after the successful surgery, Amanda’s troubles were far from over. Her lung collapsed, and she was put on a ventilator. She had to have a tracheostomy because of persistent breathing issues.
“One of the nerves that feeds her left diaphragm got stretched and was not working as well,” Elizabeth Scarlett, M.D., Pediatric Critical Care at Geisinger Medical Center. “Your diaphragm is the main muscle that helps you breathe. Where her right side was working okay, her left wasn’t working.”
Furthermore, Amanda’s leg was severely injured, necessitating three surgeries until the skin and leg began to look the way it did prior to the horrible incident.
Doctors and staff at the hospital worked hard to treat Amanda. Doctors soon removed her tracheostomy tube, disconnected her from all the life-assisting equipment and she was discharged from the hospital. Staff members who knew Amanda have commented on the girl’s friendly nature and brave attitude during the time of her recovery.
“Amanda showed from the very start that she was very determined to get off of the breathing machine and the tracheostomy tube,” Dr. Scarlett said. “She was so proud to show that she finally got her trach tube out. She always had such a wonderful positive attitude. I told her she was truly amazing.”
Recovery was slow for Amanda. Damage done to her diaphragm and spleen eliminated the possibility of a quick recovery and the young girl was bed-ridden for four weeks and six days. Michael and Michele said Amanda was “treated like gold” during her stay.
“The staff was so wonderful and always supportive,” Michele said. “I couldn’t ask for better care for her and they were always on top of what Amanda needed. They did all the extra little things like nail polish, fans and other luxuries.”
After several weeks of physical therapy, Amanda was able to go back to school. She’s made three trips back to Geisinger for follow up tests, but was cleared in Fall 2011, to do whatever she wants.
Today Amanda is happy and healthy and enjoys spending time with her friends. She and her family will never forget her tragic accident and the dedicated team at Janet Weis Children’s Hospital who helped the young girl survive.
“They are dedicated people who really care about their jobs,” Michael said. “They made my wife and I as comfortable as possible, just as much as they made Amanda feel comfortable. They thanked us for being excellent parents and we thanked them for being excellent doctors.”
The entire experience leaves the Eiswerths in awe.
“It was the most horrifying experience, probably a parent’s worst nightmare, knowing how close she came to not being with us anymore. To get her back exactly the way she was before with a few scars,” Michele said. “All I can say is it’s a miracle.”
Amanda of Valley Cottage, N.Y., suffered heart, spleen, liver and lung damage following a snowmobile accident while visiting family in Trout Run. She underwent surgeries to repair the organs and a badly injured leg.