OMAHA, NE -– A year after a horrible carnival ride accident that ripped away her hair and scalp, a Nebraska girl is still recovering and showing a strength well beyond her years.
Elizabeth Gilreath, now 12, went on her first carnival ride one year ago.
It started off with smiles but quickly turned to terror when the girl’s hair got caught on the King’s Crown ride.
It ripped her scalp off her head.
She was on the was on the King’s Crown, a spinning teacups-type ride.
Today, Elizabeth, known as Lulu, has had two head surgeries, three skin grafts, one eye surgery and 28 blood transfusions.
She says she remembers sliding down in her seat on the ride, and the next thing she knew she woke up in the hospital.
“I can’t believe it’s almost a year now,” Lulu said.
Lulu’s bright red hair, which she says she loved, is finally growing back on one side.
“And now, I can actually pull my hair up into a ponytail,” she said.
After the accident, Lulu’s mother, Virginia Cooksey, captured an image of the first time her daughter saw what she looked like and praised the girl for being brave.
The images spread worldwide, and Cooksey says they received around 5,000 letters or care packages.
But Lulu’s fight isn’t over.
A few weeks ago, the 12-year-old was once again in the hospital.
Her mother says she has an MRSA, also known as staph, infection.
“Now, my entire head is red and I have inflammatories,” Lulu said.
She also has another eye surgery coming up.
At one point, doctors didn’t know if she would ever see out of her left eye again.
Since that day one year ago, Lulu says she will never ride a carnival ride again, but the scars, the surgeries and all the pain has only left her stronger.
“My scars don’t define me. Nobody’s scars should define them,” she said.
Lulu is back in school now, in the sixth grade.
Two lawsuits are pending, one against the company that made the ride and one against the state of Nebraska for negligence.