A Special Day Takes a Traumatic Turn

Olivia Fowler

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Victoria Heywood feels blessed Dayton Children's was so close when her daughter Olivia was injured.


When Olivia Fowler and her sister Emma climbed into the family car the morning of Memorial Day 2011, they knew they were in for a special surprise. Their parents John and Victoria Heywood had this day planned for weeks and were as excited as the two girls.  What none of them knew was that this beautiful spring day would soon take a dramatic and frightening turn.

The surprise was a family trail ride at Englewood Reserve. Like Victoria, Olivia and Emma loved horses and were eager to go riding. “My husband John really didn’t have a choice about going” Victoria says with a smile, “but, boy, am I glad he did.”

With a guide leading them, Olivia and her family headed into the woods, enjoying the view from the backs of their horses. They decided to allow the horses to trot and then to canter. According to Victoria, Emma’s horse started going faster than it should, so the guide tried to get ahead of the horse to slow it down. Instead, the two horses were soon off and running with Olivia’s horse just behind.

Because Victoria had been around horses her entire life, she knew to immediately stop her horse to keep from adding to the other horses’ excitement. After a few minutes she and John caught up with the guide. They noticed Olivia what nowhere to be seen and Emma was crying hysterically. The guide explained that Olivia’s horse had gone off the trail; Olivia had fallen off and was dragged by the horse when her right foot got caught in the stirrup. John and Victoria ran through the woods looking for Olivia.


When the the unexpected happened

“We don’t know exactly what happened, but when we found her several yards down the trail, she was covered in mud, her body was twisted, blood was coming from her nose and mouth, and she drifted in and out of consciousness. The helmet she had on was cracked and scraped,” Victoria recalls.

“I immediately went into protective mom mode. I knew I couldn’t break down. My focus was to stay as strong as I could for Olivia and Emma so they wouldn’t be scared. I had to believe that everything would be fine.”

John ran more than a mile to the road and flagged down a passing motorist, who drove him to the barn. He again called 911 from the barn. The Butler Township paramedics met him at the barn.  John drove into Englewood Reserve in his Jeep and then took them by foot to Olivia.

The paramedics evaluated Olivia, put her in a neck brace and loaded her on a backboard. Because they thought Olivia may have neck and back injuries, they did not want to risk further injury by carrying her out of the woods on a backboard and transporting her in John’s Jeep. They called CareFlight since the helicopter could land in a nearby field.
Olivia was more alert at this point and Victoria was focused on keeping her daughter calm. “She kept asking if this was a dream, and I would tell her “no” and explain she had fallen off a horse and had to stay still. It was very scary,” Victoria recalls.

"We're going to Dayton Children's"

“When Olivia was loaded into the helicopter, I assumed we were going to Miami Valley, but the crew explained that the best place for kids is Dayton Children’s because they have the pediatric experts and equipment that is so important in an emergency,” Victoria says. Within minutes they were on the way to the Soin Pediatric Trauma and Emergency Center at Dayton Children’s.

At Dayton Children’s, the trauma team was ready.

“We heard we were getting a 10-year-old with possible loss of consciousness and multiple fractures who had fallen from a horse,” says Michele Nadolsky, RN, a nurse assigned to the trauma team. Dan Evans, MD, the emergency care physician on duty that day, says “We often don’t know how seriously a child is injured until he or she gets here, but the trauma team is mobilized, and we are prepared for anything.” Olivia arrived around 12:00 noon, just over an hour after she began her trail ride.
When a child suffers a traumatic injury, timely care in a pediatric trauma center offers the best chance for survival. Parents and families in the Dayton region are fortunate to have a verified pediatric trauma center close to home. The Soin Pediatric Trauma and Emergency Center at Dayton Children’s recently completed a full renovation that is setting the standard for pediatric emergency care in the region with the latest technology and a care team specially trained and experienced in caring for kids. Additionally, soothing surroundings and family amenities make a stressful experience as comfortable as possible.

“The physiology of kids is different than that of adults. The emotional care is different as well. Understanding these key differences plays a significant role in the child’s outcome,” says Dr. Evans. “Trauma care in all centers follows national Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) guidelines from the American College of Surgeons. This standardized process ensures that the greatest threat to a child’s survival is treated first,” he explains. “In Olivia’s case, she came in crying and talking, and that’s a good sign,” he says. 
Michele, the trauma nurse, remembers that Olivia was covered head to toe in dried mud. “In addition to the trauma assessment, we had to get her cleaned up so we could see what other injuries she may have suffered.”

The family is part of the trauma team

Victoria was in the trauma room as Olivia was treated. “There was a whole team of people there. They would ask Olivia questions and would also ask me questions,” Victoria says. “It was not chaotic at all—every person caring for Olivia had a role and did it. That was very calming to me as well as being allowed to be at her side in the trauma room and when she had her CT scan.”

“Having the family in the trauma room can be helpful,” Dr. Evans says. “They not only calm the child, but they can give us information about their child’s accident and medical history. Plus, we always have a member of the trauma team assigned to the family to help them deal with what is going on. It’s a team approach that we feel benefits the child’s care.”

After a head-to-toe evaluation, x-rays, CT scan, medicine for her pain and several hours of observation, it was determined that, miraculously, Olivia had no serious injuries. Victoria and John took Olivia home at 6:30 pm the same day.

Olivia spent a few days recovering from her injuries, but was soon ready to “get back in the saddle.” Though she was nervous, Olivia was determined to attend horseback camp in August.  “Olivia wanted to get on a horse before camp to make sure she would be OK. We decided a trial run would be a good idea,” Victoria says.
Although Olivia still has difficulty talking about the accident and remembers little about that day, she was determined this would not keep her from enjoying one of her favorite activities.  “I feel good that I can get back on a horse, but I was really nervous,” Olivia says.

In addition to horseback riding—Olivia takes lessons and rides regularly—she plays on a select soccer team and is a fifth-grader at St. Christopher Elementary School in Vandalia. “A perfect day for me would be playing my favorite sport, soccer, and going horseback riding,” she says.

After going through this experience with Olivia, Victoria is comforted to know that Dayton Children’s is part of the community.

“One second before your child is injured, you don’t think about the best place to take them, but one second after, it’s the only thing you think about,” she says. “To know Dayton Children’s and its pediatric experts are close by is a blessing.”

Trauma and emergency care at Dayton Children's

Top 10 causes of emergency visits

Dayton Children Soin Pediatric Trauma and Emergency Center is one of the busiest in the area, caring for  almost 70,000 children during the last 12 months. That level of experience is unmatched in the region. Unfortunately, preventable, traumatic injuries bring many children to Dayton Children’s for emergency care.

  1. Falls 4,676
  2. Sports 1,950
  3. Blunt force trauma 1,651
  4. Playground equipment 721
  5. Bicycles 568
  6. Lacerations 540
  7. Motor vehicle crashes 467
  8. Foreign body 400
  9. Physical and/or sexual abuse 296
  10. Non-motorized wheeled vehicle (eg, scooters) 269

About care in the Soin Pediatric Trauma and Emergency Center

When seconds counts, parents throughout the region trust Dayton Children’s to provide the care their child’s needs. No other hospital in the region is more qualified to treat serious childhood. The Soin Pediatric Trauma and Emergency Center is fully equipped to handle major child health emergencies across 35 specialty areas and we are certified by the American College of Surgeons as a level II pediatric trauma center.

“Children are not little adults and cannot be treated as though they are,” says David Meagher, MD, medical director of trauma and a pediatric surgeon at Dayton Children’s. He explains that children respond differently to injury, illness and treatment than adults. Being verified as a designated pediatric trauma ensures that infants, children and teens in our 20-county region have quick access to a team of experts trained to recognize and treat children’s unique differences.

Who is on the trauma team?

The trauma team at Dayton Children’s includes the following pediatric specialists to ensure the best outcome for every child coming to the trauma center for treatment:

  • Pediatric trauma surgeon
  • Pediatric neurosurgeon
  • Pediatric critical care doctor
  • Pediatric emergency physician
  • Pediatric orthopedist
  • Pediatric anesthesiologist
  • Pediatric respiratory therapist
  • Other doctors, nurses and staff trained to work with children and families.

Parents are part of the team

Parents are involved in their child’s treatment no matter what type of emergency care is needed. According to Michele Nadolsky, RN, a nurse in the trauma and emergency center, a family’s presence is often helpful. “They not only help keep their child calm, but can give us information about their child’s experience and medical history that could be helpful.” Knowing that parents are often upset themselves, the trauma team leader assigns a staff person—usually a social worker or nursing assistant—to the family to keep communications flowing between the staff and family, and to help the family deal with their child’s situation. “The team allowed me to be at Olivia’s bedside in the trauma room,” says Victoria Heywood, whose daughter was in the trauma center on Memorial Day 2011. “This was comforting to me and as well as Olivia.”



Olivia Fowler
Olivia Fowler holding Piper (left) and sister Emma
Olivia Fowler, parents John and Victoria Heywood, Piper and Emma
Olivia Fowler with one of her favorite horses.
Olivia on a horse


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