It was a beautiful evening in April — so beautiful that Traci Lopez lingered outside with her two young daughters Ava and Isabella in the fading light, even as the clock approached 8 p.m., the three of them picking up grass clippings and dropping them into a trash can.
Lopez raised her head from the task and saw the car barreling toward them. And moments later, after the three of them had been hit — as her concern over Isa’s sobbing turned to panic over 18-month-old Ava’s silence — she would question her decision to keep them outside so late.
Three-year-old Isabella, fortunately, only suffered an abrasion on her arm. Traci Lopez had a liver laceration and soft tissue damage on her right side. But Eva’s tiny body was still.
“She was breathing, but it was labored. She had a pulse. But then she stopped breathing,” said Lopez, who began rescue breathing until help could arrive. Ava was rushed to University Hospital, where she was treated for severe head injuries, broken bones, bruised lungs and internal bleeding. Recovery was long and hard, and continues today. But she demonstrates a boundless enthusiasm for life, her mother said.
“She’s in gymnastics, she’s in soccer, she likes art, she likes music — anything you name, she likes. She’s got a very outgoing personality.”
On June 28, 2012, 6-year-old Leana Mendoza and her family climbed into their truck at their Laredo home and headed out to see “the Greatest Show on Earth.” At that moment, they couldn’t have imagined that trip to the circus would result in Leana being airlifted to University Hospital to fight the greatest battle of her young life. It happened so quickly. They didn’t even see the other car jump the curb and plow into them.
Leana’s baby sister, strapped tight in her car seat, was unharmed. The injuries sustained by Leana’s mother and stepfather were immediately apparent – broken bones and lacerations. Leana’s injuries weren’t so obvious and, in fact, went undetected for two days. When her fever hit 105 and her stomach began to swell, Leana’s mom knew something was really wrong. More tests revealed severe internal damage.
Within minutes, AirLIFE was flying Leana to University Hospital, where the Pediatric Trauma Team was preparing to rush her into surgery. They knew she was critical. They knew what needed to be done to try to save her life. They also hoped this little girl would be a fighter, because they knew they couldn’t do it without her.