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Girl Who Survived Disastrous Sled Ride Called 'Miracle Kid'

Apr 10, 2011 – 2:20 PM
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Lisa Holewa

Lisa Holewa Contributor

Six-year-old Ashlyn Maas has the kind of smile that makes everyone around her grin, too. The first-grader loves to read and usually has a book in her hands.

With relief, her father describes her as a "regular" girl. Because all of that almost changed in December 2009, when a playful sled ride down a hill in their backyard in northeastern Pennsylvania ended with Ashlyn slamming into a fallen tree. A seven-inch branch snapped off into the little girl's head, piercing through her right eye and into her skull.

Ashlyn Maas
Courtesy Jill Maas
Ashlyn Maas, who survived a sledding accident in which a branch pierced her right eye and went into her brain, smiles in a recent photo.
Ashlyn, then 5, was rushed by ambulance to the local emergency room, where doctors told her parents to "prepare for the worst." She was then airlifted to Janet Weis Children's Hospital at Geisinger in Danville. A CT scan showed the branch was embedded several inches in her brain, and doctors feared she would lose her eye and have permanent brain damage, Maas said.

"It was just one of those freak accidents," her father, Wally Maas, told AOL News in a telephone interview today.

"She had to go down the hill by herself, which she had done before. But then the sled turned and I couldn't run down fast enough. ... She hit the tree. It was terrible. I picked her up and finally got her back to the house. It felt like it took forever."

At Geisinger, neurosurgeons worked to remove the branch, which they discovered had missed all her major arteries, her father said. Eye surgeons then came in and learned her eyeball itself was still intact, though it was unclear whether she'd be able to see again.

Ashlyn Maas
Courtesy Jill Maas
Ashlyn Maas is shown in the hospital after her sledding accident in December 2009. She has since made a full recovery.
But within weeks, Ashlyn had recovered completely, her vision and brain function intact.

"I'm absolutely shocked at how well she has recovered," Michael Ryan, Geisinger's chief of pediatrics, told local newspaper the Times-Tribune for a story published today. "Someone was watching out for that little girl."

In honor of her amazing recovery, Ashlyn was named one of the Children's Miracle Network at Geisinger's "Miracle Kids." The group held its annual kickoff luncheon, featuring Ashlyn and three other local children, last week. The official Children's Miracle Network celebration will be held in June.

The Maas family looks forward to helping the hospital that helped Ashlyn during that crucial time.

"It's something I wouldn't wish on any of my enemies, to pick one of your children up like that and be so powerless that you can't do anything," Wally Maas told AOL News.

"But then we left her to the doctors, to all the staff, and they were amazing. They notified us after any procedure was done. They made us feel like we were right at home, bringing us chairs, setting up beds, feeding us.

"And now, it's just something that happened to her. Everything is fine. She's just a regular, normal, 6-year-old girl," he said.
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