Fast Action and a Brave Little Girl
Nothing could have prepared Angel McNeil for what she saw the night of November 5, 2020. With her daughter and son sleeping upstairs, Angel heard gunfire outside the family’s northwest side Indianapolis apartment.
Her thoughts instantly turned to the safety of her children. Angel raced up the stairs to check on daughter Bri’Alle, 6, and son Jaiden, 10. As she turned on the light, she spotted broken drywall on the floor. Jaiden was OK, but when she heard Bri’Alle cry out in pain, she knew something was horribly wrong. Bri’Alle was bleeding from wounds in her side and arm. Angel frantically called 9-1-1.
Within minutes, neighbors, paramedics, and police rushed in to help. The bullet from outside the apartment had ripped through the children’s bedroom wall and went through Bri’Alle’s torso and arm, causing damage to a kidney, adrenal glands, pancreas, liver, stomach, intestines and one lung. The shooter disappeared, and months later, police were unable to track down a suspect.
Since the shooting, Bri’Alle has undergone half-a-dozen surgeries. Angel credits the donor-supported trauma department and emergency team members at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health for their quick and comprehensive treatment. “It was just amazing how they were able to save her life,” says Angel. Pediatric surgeon Dr. Brian Gray was among those who treated Bri’Alle that night. “Dr. Gray always speaks about how brave she was in dealing with that trauma in her life. So, their ability to help her cope and saving her is what stands out most to me.”
Angel says the shock and fear of that night ebbed as she watched emergency team members tend to Bri’Alle. Medical teams skillfully explained to her what would happen next. “They would break it down to me in their comments, drawing pictures, instead of using big medical terms,” says Angel. “They just gave it to me straightforward to prepare for the outcomes later. The education part was amazing.”
Donations to Riley Children’s Foundation help ensure kids like Bri’Alle have access to exactly that kind of highly skilled care when tragedies occur. Gifts from many different donors are pooled together to provide about $350,000 in annual funding to the trauma center at Riley – one of the select children’s hospitals in the country that is verified as a Level I Pediatric Trauma Center by the American College of Surgeons.
Level I pediatric trauma centers must demonstrate they can provide the highest level of care for life-threatening injuries such as gunshot wounds, car accidents, falls, burns and child abuse. Because every second matters in an emergency, they must also prove they can deliver the care fast.
Riley treats approximately 2,000 such injuries each year; the vast majority of Indiana children who are seriously injured in Indiana are transferred to Riley.
Donor gifts fund a team of specialists dedicated to continuously tracking and monitoring every aspect of the trauma program, from how quickly the medical team gets blood to a patient to the speed at which a trauma surgeon is available to operate when emergency surgery is required. Any opportunity for improvement is flagged and tackled.
“Donor support allows us to focus on those factors that can influence outcomes,” said Matthew P. Landman, MD, director, Riley Trauma Services.
Bri’Alle spent nearly seven weeks at Riley Hospital for Children. Angel says her daughter is doing much better. While Bri’Alle still struggles sometimes with the emotional impact of that terrifying night, Angel is thankful for her daughter’s physical recovery. As Bri’Alle has taken up gymnastics and dance, her mother now pursues a nursing degree. Bri’Alle has been encouraging her mom along the way. “She’s always telling me how important school is for myself since I got accepted into the nursing program. So she’s pushing me through.”
Bri’Alle celebrated her seventh birthday in May. Angel says she is grateful and amazed, as her daughter continues to heal from that life-changing night in November.
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