April 29, 2017 10:24 AM

A 12-year-old Nebraska girl is speaking out after a horrific carnival accident last year left her with a torn scalp and damaged eyes.

Elizabeth Gilreath was just 11 years old when she rode the King’s Crown ride at a carnival in Omaha, Nebraska, last May. The fun day turned to tragedy when her long red hair got tangled in the machinery, brutally ripping off her scalp.

“My scars don’t define me,” Elizabeth told WOWT. “Nobody’s scars should define them.”

Elizabeth Gilreath

King’s Crown was Elizabeth’s first carnival ride, according to NBC News. The little girl told WOWT that she remembers little of the accident and only recalls waking up in the hospital with her mother.

“I told her I feel like my head was smushed,” Elizabeth began. “And she told me what happened.”

She added: “I can’t believe it’s almost a year now.”

Courtesy of Virginia Cooksey

Since the accident, Elizabeth has undergone two head surgeries, one eye surgery, three skin grafts and 28 blood transfusions, according to the station. She has not been on a carnival ride since the accident.

Elizabeth’s red curls have grown back on the right side of her head.

“Now, I can actually pull my hair up into a ponytail and the thing is it’s growing,” she said.

Elizabeth’s mother, Virginia Cooksey, has posted updates about Elizabeth’s health in Facebook since the incident, sharing a photo of an injured Elizabeth sporting a smile.

“Lulu is stronger than me,” she wrote in one, months-old post, calling the little girl by her nickname. “My baby girl saw herself for the first time today. The way she handle it came me strength. “

Cooksey told WOWT that she has filed a lawsuit against the company behind the carnival ride and against the state for negligence.

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