A 7-year-old East County girl who was nearly killed in a car accident five years ago had a heartfelt reunion with the doctors and nurses who saved her life on Friday.
On May 17, 2008, when Skylar Potter was just two years old, she was critically injured in a car crash in El Cajon after an SUV plowed into the vehicle she was riding in.
Skylar became unresponsive following the crash and stopped breathing. The toddler was rushed to Rady Children’s Hospital in critical condition.
Skylar stayed at Rady Children’s Hospital for two months recovering from extensive injuries, which included a traumatic brain injury. At one point, the toddler spent three weeks in a medically-induced coma.
Miraculously, Skylar was eventually released from the hospital and sent home with her parents, Ricky Potter and Ashley Pederson. The toddler had to learn how to walk, talk and throw a ball again.
Now, five years later, Skylar is a happy, healthy first-grader who has fully recovered from the accident that nearly took her young life.
And she certainly has a lot of people of thank.
On Friday, Skylar and her parents reunited with the staff at Rady Children’s that cared for her during her time at the hospital, including the nurses and doctors who were among the first to treat her.
The reunion marked the first time the doctors and nurses had seen Skylar since her accident.
Dr. Susan Duthie, attending physician at the Intensive Care Unit at Rady Children’s Hospital, worked side-by-side with Skylar on her recovery five years ago and was overcome with emotion when she saw the first-grader again on Friday.
As soon as Skylar saw Duthie, she ran into her arms and the two shared a long, overdue hug.
Skylar told Duthie a bit about herself, telling the doctor that she’s now seven years old and loves running and math.
Duthie and the medical staff couldn’t believe how well Skylar looked.
“Skylar, you scared us – but look at you now,” Duthie told her. “I lost a lot of sleep over you.”
Duthie told NBC 7 that Skylar’s recovery is a true miracle, given her critical condition five years ago.
“Like I just told Skylar, I lost a lot of sleep over her. She was really sick, she was unstable. She needed a lot of care the first couple of weeks she was in the ICU. She needed a lot of time from the physicians and the nurses and therapists. It was intense,” recalled Duthie.
The medical staff also had a chance to catch up with Skylar’s eternally grateful parents on Friday, who said their child is an active, healthy, typical 7-year-old.
Mother Ashley Pederson said Skylar is “just a regular kid” these days, and “not an accident victim.”
Pederson said reuniting with the doctors and nurses who saved her daughter’s life is something that’s very important to their family.
“Seeing Dr. Duthie and everybody else that helped Skylar in her recovery is always sad but really, really happy too at the same time. You’re just so grateful and forever indebted to them for everything they did to help her,” Pederson told NBC 7.
Father Ricky Potter said his family makes it a point to keep in touch with the hospital staff and continues to thank them to this day.
“The team that worked with Skylar did such a remarkable job. I think it’s important to come back and let these people know the difference they make in people’s lives every day. It’s a job to them, but without Dr. Duthie and the team, Skylar wouldn’t be alive,” said Potter.
Reflecting, Skylar’s parents said that dark period in their lives in 2008 made them stronger as a family. Pederson says they think about those times – and the people who made a difference – each year on May 17, on “Skylar’s accident day.”
“Skylar still talks about her doctors and nurses, five years later,” she added.
For Duthie, Skylar is a patient she’ll personally never forget.
“It’s just wonderful that her family keeps in touch with us, lets us know how she is. Us, in the ICU, we love it when kids come back to see us. It makes those long, sleepless, horrible nights worthwhile,” she said.
Duthie said reunions with former young patients like this are rare, which is why seeing Skylar again was so special.
“Seeing Skylar is why I do what I do; making kids better, pulling them through incredible odds, getting to know their family. It’s wonderful,” said Duthie. “Today is the best day I’ve had in a long time.”
Skylar’s nurse – whom she affectionately nicknamed “Mary Poppins” during her time at the hospital due to the nurse's kind nature and English accent – also attended the reunion and was happy to see Skylar.
The girl’s parents said Skylar has a few small scars left over from her time at the hospital, but other than that, the horrific car accident is now in the past.
Her parents said Friday’s reunion helped heal their family's other scars, emotional ones, and will help their daughter move forward in her happy, healthy future.