Jannesa, age 9, was enjoying a day of water fun with her family in the ocean off of Key West on July 4, 2005 when something went horribly wrong. The Key West Elementary fourth grader was riding in a large floating tube with two of her five siblings when the boat that was towing them hit its own wake, causing the tube to slingshot against a concrete seawall.
In the terrifying minutes that followed, Jannesa’s mother Jaime and her fiancé managed to get the badly injured child out of the water and to a hospital in the Lower Keys.
It was there that Jaime learned that a portion of Jannesa’s skull had been forced five and a half inches into her brain and she had an orbital fracture that threatened her right eye. Doctors advised that Jannesa be transported to Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, where a neurosurgeon and other specialists would be waiting for them.
While Nicklaus Children's LifeFlight® Critical Care Transport Team brought Jannesa and Jaime to the hospital, Nicklaus Children's Hospital neurosurgeon Dr. David Sandberg was facing his own challenges. Trying to make his way from Brickell to the hospital at 9 p.m., Dr. Sandberg found himself unable to move in the tangle of traffic created by area fireworks displays.
Anxious knowing that a critically ill child would soon be waiting for him, Dr. Sandberg flagged down Coral Gables police officer Steven Ellinport. “He put on his siren and led me on opposite lanes and across grass, getting me to the hospital in record time,” recalls Dr. Sandberg.
When Dr. Sandberg first examined Jannesa, she was obviously in need of immediate emergency surgery. She was lethargic, and had a huge laceration that extended from her forehead to her eyelid, through which brain tissue was visible. Dr. Sandberg and hospital staff rushed the child to the operating room where damaged tissue was removed from Jannesa’s brain and the depressed skull fracture was repaired.
“Today, she is neurologically normal,” said Dr. Sandberg. Jannesa’s family recognizes how fortunate they are. “She is doing great,” said Jaime. “She is such a happy child. She tells us that Jesus saved her and now she has important things to accomplish.”