Signs of a tough girl

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Lewis family – Bailey, Roderick, Beth and Connie – pose on the family couch inside their Andalusia home. Bailey is recovering after losing her arm in a September ATV accident.

The Lewis family – Bailey, Roderick, Beth and Connie – pose on the family couch inside their Andalusia home. Bailey is recovering after losing her arm in a September ATV accident.

T rue story – thanks to YouTube, Bailey Lewis can tie her shoe with one hand.

Another true story – Lewis’ dad, Roderick, is deaf, and the family communicates using sign language.

Those two facts normally wouldn’t garner much attention; but, when one takes into account that the Andalusia Elementary School fourth grader lost her left forearm in a September ATV accident…well, can you say “tough girl?”

On Monday, Lewis’ natural enthusiasm for life and self-confidence was apparent as she described the accident at a family friend’s in a no-nonsense way.

“I was riding a Razor – buckled up and with a helmet and everything,” she said. “Another boy on a four-wheeler zig-zagged in front of me and stopped. I flipped over and he hit his back on a tree and the bar of the Razor landed on my arm. I didn’t even cry – not one time – but I did scream when I saw my arm. It was gross.”

Lewis’ sister, Beth, was riding in the Razor, but was unhurt in the Fri., Sept. 27, accident.

“And the bad thing was, Saturday was my daddy’s birthday,” Lewis said. “He didn’t have a good one.”

Never mind the trauma she experienced because of the accident, but that just goes to show how much of a trooper Lewis continues to be.

Lewis was sent from Andalusia Regional Hospital to the University of South Alabama hospital. From there, she was sent to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, where a team of plastic surgeons attempted to save her arm. Doctors had hoped to be able to use a metal plate to mend the gap in bone. For a while it appeared as if the procedure would work; however, it wasn’t meant to be.

“When doctors opened the wound, they found the bone was already deteriorating,” Lewis’ mother, Connie, said. “They had removed a vein from her leg and put it in her arm. She had a pulse in her hand, but the gap in the radius was too much to mend.”

Doctors elected to take Lewis’ arm off just below the elbow joint. And now, eight surgeries – including a skin graft – later, Lewis is nearly ready to head back to school.

“Doctors want her to be completely healed,” Mrs. Lewis said. “We’re looking at January, we think.”

And that day won’t come soon enough either, the family agreed.

“She’s such a trooper,” Mrs. Lewis said of her daughter. “She constantly amazes us. At first, we thought she would be self-conscious about going out, but no. She said, ‘Mom, I don’t care if people stare at me or what they say about me.’

“That’s just who Bailey is. She doesn’t let anything get her down,” she said.

But don’t think that Lewis’ recovery has been an easy journey, because it hasn’t. Numerous trips to the doctor – sometimes two to three times a week – have taken a toll.

“It’s been stressful,” Mrs. Lewis said. “But we’re happy to be home, thankful she’s here, and we’re strong because she’s strong.”

Getting back into the groove of things has been challenging as well. Simple tasks like dressing, eating and using sign language with her dad had to be relearned by the once-left-handed child. Hence, the YouTube video, Lewis said.

“She signs the same, believe it or not,” Mrs. Lewis said. “You primarily sign using your dominant hand, and the other is used for clarification.”

And as the fingers flew, it was easy to see the transition.

“I don’t have a problem understanding her at all,” Mrs. Lewis translated for her husband. “She didn’t miss a beat.”

But, according to her, she is missing out on a lot – primarily her friends, Lewis said. Caught up on schoolwork, Lewis said she is about to go stir-crazy at home.

“Ahhh! I’m so ready to go back,” she said. “I can’t wait to go to school. I can’t wait to start back to dance. I’m ready. Let’s do it, I say!”