One year later: Lulu speaks out about recovery after carnival ride

Published: Apr. 26, 2017 at 3:55 PM CDT
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It was her very first carnival ride. A young girl, with bright red hair, was smiling.

That ride quickly turned to terror. Elizabeth Gilreath's hair got caught on the King's Crown ride. It ripped her scalp off her head.

"I can't believe it's almost a year now," said Lulu.

Since that day, Lulu has had two head surgeries, three skin grafts, one eye surgery, and 28 blood transfusions.

"I told her I feel like my head was smushed, mom. And she told me what happened," said Lulu.

She remembers sliding down in her seat on the King's Crown ride. The next hing she knew, she woke up in the hospital.

"In this bathroom, they forgot to cover the mirror and I saw my head. They had to bring me back up to my room," she said.

Lulu's mother captured an image the first time her daughter saw what she looked like after the accident. She praised her daughter for being so brave.

"I loved my hair. It was extremely rare," she said.

Nearly a year later, this 12-year-old's curls are growing back on one side.

"And now, I can actually pull my hair up into a ponytail and the thing is it's growing," Lulu said.

As images of the accident spread worldwide, Lulu's mom says they received around 5,000 letters and care packages.

Lulu's fight is far from over.

A few weeks ago, Lulu was once again back in the hospital. Her mother says she has a staph or MRSA infection.

"Now my entire head is red and I have inflammatorys here and here," Lulu said.

She has another eye surgery coming up soon. At one point, doctors did not know if she would ever see out of her left eye again.

"If I keep focusing on something you'll see my left eye daze away," she said.

Since that day, Lulu says she will never ride a carnival ride again.But despite the scars, the surgeries and all the pain, it has only made her stronger.

"My scars don't define me. Nobody's scars should define them," she said.

Lulu's mother, Virginia Cooksey, tells WOWT 6 News she has two lawsuits pending. One against the company who made the carnival ride. Another against the State of Nebraska for negligence.

Lulu is back in school. She is a 6th grader.