A young Alabama girl who was left with a gruesome facial injury has had a “miraculous” recovery after contracting meningitis that brought her near death.
Jared Clark and his family were forced from their last home more than four years ago after a mold and asbestos problem was discovered, and since then, they’ve dealt with financial problems. The family has rented or stayed with friends as they look for some kind of stability, and Jared recently opted to take things into his own hands, building a small home on his father’s property that they could transport when they finally had money for their own land. On January 11, while Jared was halfway through decking the roof, a 48-pound piece of plywood slipped from his hand and fell through a barrier he had built to keep materials from falling to the ground.
He then heard a horrifying sound he says he won’t ever forget.
“It hit the fencing and went straight through it, like it wasn’t even there,” Jared, 33, from Athens, Alabama, tells PEOPLE. “Then I heard a blood-curdling scream. I can’t describe the feeling, it was like the life was sucked out of my body.”
Though his children were told not to be in the area, his 10-year-old daughter, Chloe, ran through the side of the house just as the large piece of wood came flying down, smashing into the bridge of her nose. Jared quickly climbed down from the roof, took off his shirt and applied pressure to Chloe’s bloodied face. With his wife, Sarah, watching over the couple’s other children, Jared rushed his daughter to the emergency room.
Doctors examined Chloe’s injury and determined they did not have the resources to treat her, and they transferred the young girl to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville to undergo cosmetic surgery to fix the bridge of her nose. During this time, an exhausted Chloe repeatedly told her father she wanted to sleep, and she was “ready to be with Jesus.”
Fortunately, scans by Vanderbilt doctors showed the injuries weren’t as severe as they initially thought, and though they expected her to have a lengthy recovery, they were ready to check her out the following night on January 12.
That was until Chloe began screaming at the top of her lungs after waking up from a nap.
“Just seconds before, she was just laying in bed, then screaming that the pain was a ’10,’ ” Jared recalls. “She started thrashing around violently, then she was out cold.”
Doctors discovered that the impact from the plywood had broken the protective barrier around Chloe’s brain, and bacteria from her sinuses had leaked in, resulting in meningitis, which caused her brain to swell.
Additional scans showed Chloe had developed double thrombosis—the formation of a blood clot inside a blood vessel—and a spinal tap showed her fluid was cloudy. Her lungs were filling with mucus and fluid, and doctors manually cleared them out every few hours.
Doctors placed the 10-year-old on a breathing tube to ease the stress on her body, but they were increasingly worried she was going to suffer permanent brain damage—or worse.
“She was placed in the ICU, and they thought they were going to lose her,” Jared says. “That’s when they thought she had serious brain damage because it was getting so severe.”
With Chloe in a coma for days, Jared and Sarah Clark took turns staying with their daughter in the hospital.
More than a week after the accident, Chloe stabilized and regained consciousness. Today, she is even playing her guitar and ukulele.
“It has been leaps and bounds every single day,” Jared says, adding that the doctors have called the recovery “miraculous,” considering the close calls they experienced. “We’re just in awe and thank God. Just the fact that she’s here and she’s still herself. She’s alive and still with us, and we’re just so so thankful.”
On Wednesday, Chloe underwent reconstructive surgery on her nose and is expected to make a full recovery without the need for outpatient care. (Chloe will need intravenous antibiotics after making her return home. Jared and Sarah are learning how to properly administer it.)
Jared says they will knock down what is left of the house he was building, and wait until the opportunity arises again once Chloe makes her recovery. The family has set up a GoFundMe page for donations.
“The main thing is God’s goodness and grace through all of this, and that Chloe is okay,” he says.