12-year-old Elizabeth Gilreath has talked about her experience being scalped by a carnival ride in 2016.

She was riding the King’s Crown ride in Omaha when she slid off her chair and had her hair tangled in the ride’s mechanic parts, resulting in her whole scalp being torn off her head. “Lulu,” as her family and friends called her, went through many clinical procedures, including two head surgeries and 28 blood transfusions.

Elizabeth Gilreath
One year later, Lulu is still undergoing surgeries. Image credit: Omaha World-Herald.

How the accident took place

Lulu had sat on the King’s Crown ride at an Omaha carnival, celebrating Cinco de Mayo at around 1 p.m. on May 7. Apparently, because the ride did not have any seatbelts, Lulu fell to the floor and then the ride tore off her hair.

Witnesses were in shock as they watched the girl collapse on the floor. Onlookers stood and yelled for operators to stop the ride while others rushed to help Elizabeth, using their shirts to halt the bleeding.

Elizabeth Gilreath
People that saw Elizabeth conscious after the incident report that she asked: “Where’s my pretty hair?”. Image credit: NBC News.

After taking Lulu off the ride, she was driven to the Nebraska Medical Center, where it was determined that her wounds could hardly be classified as lethal. The incident occurred just a week after a similar accident took place in Texas, where a 16-year-old girl died after being thrown from a carnival ride.

Timothy Gilreath, Lulu’s father, stated publicly that the ride turned into a torture machine. He also claims that doctors were not sure if her muscles would recover completely and if Elizabeth would be able to see again. Thankfully, one of the pivotal points in her recovery was being able to see from her left eye, as she saw herself in the mirror for the first time.

Her parents set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds to help her recover, but apparently, the donation goal of $75,000 has been met.

A long path to recovery

Doctors were surprised seeing how fast Elizabeth recovered, attributing it to her family always being present. Lulu’s sisters cut their hair as a form of support and Virginia Cooksey, Elizabeth’s mother, had “Lulu” cut into her scalp.

Cooksey says that the support she and her family have received from the public has been outstanding, but fears that her daughter will have to live through extensive therapy. She believes that Lulu may think that the accident was her fault because she fell from her seat.

Elizabeth Gilreath
Lulu remembers her hair, which she loved and called it “rare.” After having her scalp ripped off, she can now tie up a ponytail with her hair, as it has started to grow naturally in some parts of her head. Image credit: NBC News.

Now, Elizabeth can’t believe that it’s been almost a year since the tragic incident. She says that she only remembers falling from her seat at the ride before waking up at the hospital. Lulu also remembers having gone to the bathroom and seeing her face, as nurses had forgotten to cover the mirror.

Lulu’s mother still seeks compensation

Sadly, Lulu is still at risk, as her scalp is always exposed to infections. Several days ago, she was driven to the hospital after her mother had determined that Lulu suffered from MRSA infection, short for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection, also known as Mercer. Her head was swollen and red. Also, Lulu’s left eye drifts away when trying to focus on an object for a prolonged period.

Even after suffering such a traumatizing injury, Elizabeth is strong-willed and able to move on with life, as she assures that her scars should not define who she is, as with anyone else. Her mother claims that Lulu is much stronger than she is, even if she has decided that she would never ride a carnival attraction ever again.

Thankfully, Lulu has gone back into school and is coursing her 6th grade as an average girl. She recognizes that the experience has made her strong, although her mother fears about the future of her girl. Recently, Virginia has been posting regular updates on Lulu’s recovery since the accident occurred, including a heartwarming picture of Lulu smiling.

Virginia Cooksey is now pledging to make sure that all carnival rides have seat belts and undergo timely maintenance to avoid more tragic incidents. State officials argue that there is “no indication of malfunction” in the ride that injured Elizabeth, so perhaps the ride’s design is inherently dangerous for people with long hair.

Seeking for compensation, Cooksey is presenting two lawsuits to amend the damages and the painful experience. One of the lawsuits is against the State of Nebraska for negligence, and the other is against the ride’s manufacturer.

Source: Omaha World Herald