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Kiara Marshall: Walking in her shoes takes strength and a lot of courage

The scars on her face and the limp in her walk are constant reminders of the fateful night when a drunk driver nearly took Kiara’s young life. Fortunately, Scott & White’s Bone and Joint Institute has helped her do something no one thought she would ever do again—walk.

On July 4, 2003, while Kiara was watching a fireworks display in the rural town of Troy, Texas, a drunk driver’s car swerved out of control and slammed into the 10-year-old girl, pinning her between two vehicles. The impact instantly cut off Kiara’s right leg, severely injured her left leg, and caused massive injuries to the rest of her body. Kiara was taken by helicopter to Scott & White in Temple. Kiara’s injuries were so extensive that the first days following her injury were focused on saving her life.

The long road of rehabilitation

Expert care in the intensive care unit, combined with multiple surgical procedures and an inexhaustible willpower, brought Kiara through. After she made this first remarkable recovery, attention shifted to rebuilding her remaining leg.

Robert Probe, MD, chairman of the Scott & White Orthopedic Department, rebuilt Kiara’s knee, first focusing on preventing infection, then repairing muscles, skin, and fractured bones. These surgical repairs were critical, but the real work began as Kiara gained strength and applied herself to the long process of therapy and rehabilitation.

"We watched a lot of cartoons and made friendship bracelets for the doctors and nurses. I would take Kiara for rides in her wheelchair around the hospital, and she enjoyed spending time with the Child Life specialists," says her mother, Rene Armstrong, who took a year’s sabbatical from work to care for her daughter. She applauds her daughter’s bravery.

"Kiara’s had her share of ups and downs, but her sense of humor and determination warm my heart,” says Mrs. Armstrong. "Before the accident, Kiara was extremely shy and timid. After her injury, she became a very strong, outgoing person."

Nothing holding her back

At least once every year, Kiara gets a replacement prosthesis for her right leg. She says it takes a few days to adjust to the new prosthesis, but it does not keep her from living life to its fullest.

In fact, Kiara considers herself to be like every other girl her age. "I want to experience new things," she says. "I’ve been skiing and snowboarding three times now, and I only have to make a small adjustment to my prosthetic leg. It really isn’t hard."

Kiara will graduate from high school next year and plans to go to college to become a biomedical engineer. Mrs. Armstrong feels grateful.

"We received excellent care at Scott & White,” she says. "I don’t know if any other hospital would have been capable of doing the same thing for my daughter—it basically saved her life and helped her walk again."