Girl survives bike plunge down cliff
Helmet saves her life
Nine-year-old Kacee Baggett of Madras had a close brush with tragedy during an end-of-summer camping trip, when she accidentally launched her bicycle off a 30-foot cliff.
Kacee's parents, Teresa and Lee Baggett, were scurrying around Sept. 1, to get ready for their first campout at Pelton Park on Lake Simtustus.
"I was in a hurry, and things were unorganized," said Teresa Baggett. The Baggetts have six daughters, Ashton, 19, Kortney, 17, Kacee, 9, Kinlee, 6, Emma, 3, and Addison, 15 months.
She had bought new bike helmets for Kacee and Kinlee three weeks earlier and told the girls to pack them, but when they got to the lake, she realized the helmets were missing.
Returning home, she was unable to find the helmets, so she went to Bi-Mart and bought two new ones.
"Kacee was mad, because her helmet was black and looked like a boy's helmet," her mother said. But she wore it anyway.
On Saturday, Sept. 3, the girls were riding their bikes around the park loop, then went to the swimming area with an adult friend of the family.
Kacee came back to camp and asked if she could stay with her friend's dad, Kevin Tucker. Her mom said yes, and told her she would come down in just a little bit.
"A few minutes later, Kevin Tucker, came running into camp, threw Kacee's bike down and yelled, `This girl's been in a bad wreck!'" Teresa Baggett said.
Directed to the boat dock, she and her husband started running. "When we got closer, I could see her lying on the dock with a cut above her eye that was bleeding, and abrasions all over because she was only wearing a swimsuit and flip flops, and she was crying," her mother said.
Several people were attending Kacee, including family friend Kathy Anderson, who had witnessed the whole accident from her boat on the lake. Anderson's mother, a nurse, was also in the boat.
"I happened to look up and see a kid shooting down the embankment on a bike. She hit a bump, flipped over, and met a boulder head-on. There was no movement, so I got over there with the boat," Anderson said.
Anderson said the embankment was pretty straight up and down, and lined with boulders.
An unidentified Hispanic man also saw Kacee go off the edge, and and ran down to help her, along with Kevin Tucker who heard people yelling to call 911 and ran over from the swim area.
"She was knocked unconscious, and it was too steep for them to get her up the embankment. So, they put her in Kathy's boat and her 18-year-old nephew held Kacee while Kathy drove to the boat dock," Teresa Baggett said.
"We feel God was in this. No one from the swim area could see her (through the trees) and for (Anderson) to see her was amazing. She ended up on top of a rock, and if she had landed six inches further she would have been in the water unconscious," her mother said.
"I had no idea the extent of her injuries," Teresa Baggett said, noting her daughter didn't look severely injured. But Anderson emphasized the importance of telling the hospital what had happened -- "That she hit a rock, flipped over and hit more rocks."
Afraid an ambulance would take too long, the Baggetts decided to drive Kacee to Mountain View Hospital themselves.
"She was coherent all the way. Someone had handed me a bag of ice and wet towel to put on her head, and she said `Mom, you're giving me a brain freeze,'" Kacee's mother remembered.
They learned later what had happened. There are two steep trails to the swim area. Kacee decided to take a shortcut from the upper trail to the lower trail, but was going too fast, couldn't make the corner, and rode off the cliff.
"They did a CT scan in Madras and I wasn't worried. I thought she had a broken nose and would need some stitches. But when the CT scan showed a skull fracture -- that's when I got nervous," Teresa Baggett said.
"Her helmet definitely saved her life," Kacee's mother said, noting even with a helmet, her injuries included: a fractured skull, concussion, a minor brain bleed, broken nose, fractures around her eye socket, and abrasions from head to toe.
"In the hospital, she vomited blood and shortly after had a seizure. Dr. Savage said we could send her to the Bend hospital, but at age 9, he said she needed a pediatric specialist," Teresa Baggett said.
They had an AirLink membership and opted to have her flown to the specialist at Legacy Emanuel in Portland, with her dad accompanying her.
Enroute, Kacee vomited blood three more times and had to have breathing tubes inserted.
Kacee's mom was too emotional and upset to drive, so her father-in-law drove her to Portland. "It was the longest drive to Portland I've ever been on," she said, noting they got there around 11 p.m.
"When the neurosurgeon looked at the CT and said she would not need surgery, it was the biggest relief ever," she said.
Transferred to the intensive care unit, Kacee woke up around 1 p.m. the next day (Sunday), and spoke, asking her parents to pray with her.
"Thank you for saving me, and don't let this happen to anyone else," Kacee prayed.
That night, she was still worrying about others. "Mom, someone needs to go out there and build a fence," she told them.
Fortunately, Kacee doesn't remember anything about the accident, or much of her hospital stay. "The only thing I remember is going off the hill," she said.
To be sure there wasn't a recurrence of her brain bleed, Kacee had to stay in the hospital for six days. Both her eyes were swollen shut, and on the fifth day she was finally able to open them. Antiseizure medicine had prevented her from having another seizure.
Because of double vision problems, she was examined by an ophthalmologist, who said a bone fragment had been pushed into a muscle next to her optical nerve. They visited another specialist who said the bone fragment was too dangerous to remove, but it would not move or cause damage if left in place.
"Kacee was so amazing, she didn't complain (about her injuries) one time in the hospital," her mother said, adding with a laugh, "Her biggest complaint was that she was bored or that the food wasn't very good."
Released from the hospital, she returned home Friday, Sept. 9, and surprised everyone by attending Buff Intermediate for a few hours on Tuesday.
Students from her classroom with Mary Soliz, and another room had made her a banner reading "Get well soon! We miss you Kacee!"and sent it to her while she was at the Portland hospital.
"Some people and a lot of teachers asked me about the accident, and a lot of people just stared," Kacee said of her first day back.
On Sept. 19, she had surgery in Bend to repair her broken nose, and returned to school Wednesday sporting a big piece of tape across her face.
"Another person called me a trooper today," she told her mom.
When asked what she thinks now about the black helmet she was wearing, Kacee replied, "It's still an ugly boy's helmet -- but thanks, helmet, for saving me."
"That's why we wanted to share her story. She's here today because of that helmet, and we want kids to know how important it is to wear a helmet," her mother said.
"There have been so many tragedies in our community in the last two months. We want people to know God's still here performing miracles, and Kacee is evidence of that," she added.