“Her little sister, Ellie, was sitting next to her on her knees screaming and crying, ‘Please don’t die! Please don’t die!’”
Stephanie Scholl will never forget the traumatic evening her family endured in June 2013. Her daughter, Maree, then 10 years old, was playing with her sister, cousins, and neighbors at a local playground.
Suddenly, children were sprinting toward the Scholl house, yelling for someone to call 911.
“I ran through the house and hopped the fence. I couldn’t do that on a normal day,” says Stephanie. “When I got to the playground, there were several other little children there, and I could tell from their faces something awful had happened.”
Stephanie saw Maree lying on the ground. A 17-foot pole had fallen from a playground apparatus and hit her on the head, and she was bleeding profusely from her ear.
An ambulance took Maree to a local emergency room, where doctors decided she needed to be at a hospital with more specialized equipment to determine the extent of her injuries.
“The doctor asked ‘Where do you want to send her? We can send her by helicopter to either Mayo or Iowa City,’” remembers Stephanie. “We asked the doctor, ‘Where do you think we should go?’ He looked at us and said, ‘Iowa City has a great children’s hospital.’”
Upon arrival, University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital neurology, otolaryngology, hematology, and emergency medicine specialists began caring for Maree.
“We felt very grateful for their professionalism, knowledge, and the calmness they had about them,” says Maree’s father, John.
The accident resulted in four skull fractures, one of which that was just millimeters from Maree’s carotid artery—a major artery that sends blood from the heart to the brain. She spent the next week healing in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit before returning home.
Stephanie and John were impressed with the doctors, nurses, staff, and medical students they encountered during Maree’s stay.
“One thing I really liked about UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital was that it’s also a teaching hospital,” says John. “It was good for Maree to see that side of what’s going on, and it has given her an interest in ear, nose, and throat medicine.”
In February 2014, UI pediatric head and neck surgeon Marlan Hansen, MD, performed reconstructive surgery on Maree’s ear canal. She now has near-normal hearing and only visits UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital once a year for hearing tests.
Today, Maree is back to being her energetic and active self. She—along with her older brother Joe, twin sister Andee, and younger sister Ellie—now knows and stresses the importance of playground safety.
Maree’s recovery has also put things in perspective for the Scholl family.
“We’ve realized not to take life for granted,” says John.
“Maree could have died. She could have not been able to walk or talk, so after being here for a week and knowing that the worst of what she was facing was just some hearing loss, we could live with that,” adds Stephanie. “It’s really been a miracle.”