A spirited 8-year-old had been waiting five hours to perform in her barrel racing competition. She’s ridden horses for years, but this was her biggest race yet. The night was growing cold and things just felt a little off for […]
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Holding on Despite Horse Accident

by Jill Taylor on July 22, 2014

in Patient and Staff Stories

A spirited 8-year-old had been waiting five hours to perform in her barrel racing competition. She’s ridden horses for years, but this was her biggest race yet. The night was growing cold and things just felt a little off for the Odom family.

What happened next to Allyssa Odom, no one could have predicted. Her 1,000-pound horse lifted up and fell on her, severing part of her liver and pancreas. It was a miracle she survived, thanks to quality care at McLane Children’s Scott & White and the attentive support of her family.

(top) Hayden Stagg, MD; Danny Little, MD; Justin Regner, MD (bottom) Allyssa Odom (top) Hayden Stagg, MD; Danny Little, MD; Justin Regner, MD (bottom) Allyssa Odom

Love for Horses

“Ally’s been around horses since she was born,” says her mother Paula Odom.

Paula also grew up riding horses and teaches teens how to care for animals and agriculture with the Texas A&M 4H program. She was right by her daughter’s side at the time of the accident in Fairfield, Texas. She recalls the tragic event that happened in the late spring.

“It was after 11 p.m., and she was waiting her turn to race. She had warmed up with the horse and she wasn’t nervous,” says Paula.

Just as Ally was about to race, her horse Misty reared up and landed on her. Her father was in the stands and immediately rushed to her side.

“At first she got up, but then all of a sudden she collapsed and her lips turned blue,” says Paula. “We knew something was wrong, but Ally’s instinct is to always get up and fight again.”

An ambulance was on its way to the remote town to take her to the helicopter pad. They loaded Ally on a helicopter headed to Dallas, but due to the harsh weather she was directed to nearby McLane Children’s Scott & White. It was the closest children’s hospital and Ally needed attention quickly. The Odoms found themselves over two hours from their home in Athens, wondering and worried if their daughter would make it.

Injured but Not Broken

They were thankful to be greeted by the McLane Children’s Level II Pediatric Trauma Center team that assessed Ally and assumed she had internal injuries. They quickly performed an x-ray and gladly found no broken bones. A CT scan confirmed the doctors’ suspicions that Ally was suffering from major internal bleeding.

“They asked if we were the Odom family and took us straight back,” says Paula. “I couldn’t believe that at 2 o’clock in the morning there were that many people there to help us.”

McLane Children’s pediatric surgeon Danny Little, MD took care of Ally and explained everything to her parents in a composed and clear manner.

“I immediately connected with Dr. Little,” says Paula. “He is so comfortable and laid back and did a great job explaining everything. He’s an awesome doctor and a really good people person.”

Accompanying Dr. Little in surgery was adult trauma surgeon Justin Regner MD and current chief resident and future pediatric surgeon, Hayden Stagg, MD. The three surgeons worked together to repair Ally’s transected liver and injured hepatic veins. Additionally, two-thirds of her pancreas had to be removed.

Dr. Little says he has a close working relationship with adult trauma surgeon Dr. Regner and his expertise was instrumental in Ally’s surgery.

After surgery, Ally required hospital care for weeks to repack the injury and monitor her progress. When she first woke up from sedation, she could remember the helicopter ride and asked if they needed a ticket to get back home. This made her mom smile, and they felt blessed that Ally was alright.

Riding to Recovery

After such a traumatic injury, Ally required four drains out of her stomach everywhere she went for food and fluids. Her mom says that anytime people asked about it, she didn’t shy away. She explained her story and pressed on with a good attitude for nearly five weeks.

The family felt grateful for their care, especially from the ICU staff and Dr. Stagg who stayed with the Odoms from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. One of their nurses even logged into her computer and did all her work right in the room, never leaving Ally’s side.

During Ally’s five-week stay at the hospital, Dr. Little also went out of his way to help Paula through the tragic passing of her father due to pancreatic cancer. They received this terrible news right in the middle of Ally’s treatment. Because Ally’s injury was to the pancreas, this hit a sensitive spot for Paula and she had a hard time dealing with it all.

“When I heard that Ally’s injury was to the pancreas, that just made me fall apart,” says Paula. “My father had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and I knew how important the pancreas was.”

Paula says Dr. Little took time to explain the details behind pancreatic cancer. He suggested Paula take time to attend the funeral services out of town, and bring Ally along despite being in the middle of her recovery. He didn’t make her feel guilty and helped them through this stressful time.

When Ally was able to return to school, her teachers and administrators were supportive, allowing her to leave each day before gym class and arranging her schedule so she didn’t miss any academic instruction.

Back on the Horse

As Ally has been focused on recovering, she hasn’t been able to ride her horses just yet.

“If she wants to ride again, I’ll let her,” says Paula. “We’ll always have horses and we make it as safe as possible. It’s too bad we can’t predict everything that will happen.”

Ally, who is 9 now, has a large scar that will remind her of that tragic day, but she’s determined to press on with her outgoing spirit. She’s ready to jump back into school and perhaps someday soon, she’ll get back on the horse.

“It’s an absolute miracle Ally’s body could be exposed to so much damage and still heal itself,” says Paula. “I didn’t think we’d be as far as we are now with everything that happened to her.”

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