On May 23, 2020, 13-year-old Brooklyn Farless and cousin Ashleigh Foster were at a family reunion riding a four-wheeler in nursery fields off Bluff Springs Road. Whether the two cousins hit a hole or made a bad turn is not known, as neither has a memory of the actual accident.
However it happened, their four-wheeler crashed. Ashleigh was thrown off and Brooklyn, who was driving, hung on and rolled with it.
Others in the family, who had been riding ATVs and side-by-sides in the field, rushed to Brooklyn’s mother, Rebecca, to tell her what happened. Rebecca, a nurse, found a grisly scene upon arrival.
“We drove out there, and when I got there all I could see was blood, and it was just pouring down the hill,” she says. “And it was coming from this gash on Brooklyn’s head.”
Rebecca located the gash, and used her hand to apply pressure to slow the bleeding. The medical attention was crucial, as it bought time until first-responders could arrive. In retrospect, Rebecca is glad her nursing instincts were activated instead of her maternal instincts, which might have made her too distraught to render aid.
“Momma mode didn’t kick in at the time. It was nurse mode, which is a good thing,” she says.
Paramedics arrived and decided to fly both Brooklyn and Ashley to Erlanger Hospital by way of Gath Baptist Church. An ambulance transported the two to the church, and from there a helicopter flew them to Chattanooga.
Ashley would be diagnosed with a severe concussion and released that night.
Rebecca got in her car and drove to Erlanger and when she entered her daughter’s operating room there was blood everywhere, “like a scene out of ‘ER.’” While she had been making the hour-and-ahalf drive, the doctors had to classify Brooklyn a Jane Doe case, that is to make all the medical decisions themselves because of the life-or-death immediacy of the situation and because Rebecca was not present.
Brooklyn had suffered a Type II odontoid fracture in her neck. All that held her head to her body were the muscles in her neck. Furthermore, she had crushed the T4, T5, and T6 thoracic vertebrae in her back, her left arm and left diaphragm were paralyzed, and she had pulled five nerves in her spine. Moreover, she had suffered a traumatic brain injury.
She stayed in the hospital and underwent surgery on May 26. A blade and six screws were inserted into her neck. A rod and eight screws were inserted into her back. She finally awoke from surgery with her smile intact though.
After 3 ½ weeks at Erlanger, Brooklyn was transferred to Children’s Hospital of Atlanta (CHOA) for rigorous therapy. “All day starting at 7 a.m., 8 a.m. in the morning to 6 p.m. at night,” Brooklyn remembers of the daily regimen.
In early July 2020, after about 2 ½ weeks at CHOA, Brooklyn was able to come home to Warren County. She continued therapy at Ascension St. Thomas River Park three times a week.
In October of that year she underwent reinnervation surgery to address her brachial plexus injury, which had paralyzed her left arm. Renowned surgeon Dr. Allan Peljovich took working nerves from her shoulder and wrist and tied them into some of her arm nerves that were not functioning.
To this day, Brooklyn cannot raise up her left arm. However, she does have function in her wrist and shoulder. Her occupational therapy, which she still does every week, has been instrumental in her recovery. One major factor has been Rebecca Lefevers, her occupational therapist. “She’s sweet. She pushes me. I’d call her my second mother,” Brooklyn says of Lefevers.
Brooklyn, who goes by the nickname “Flossie” and is now 15, will be a sophomore at Warren County High School this school year. She still suffers from severe headaches and short-term memory problems, but her attitude remains positive.
“I think that’s probably what enabled her to push through the injuries that she had,” Rebecca says.
This summer, after years away from the game, Brooklyn decided to try to play softball at Midway again. She wanted to pitch, so in the spring she started working on her craft at home. “She got the ball bag and she got some balls, and she went out there and she started pitching to a bucket,” her mother says.
The preparation paid off. Brooklyn is pitcher for DeKalb County Florist, which started the season slowly but picked up steam thereafter. Since she does not have use of her left arm, Brooklyn holds a left-hander ’s glove between her left hand and body while she delivers a pitch. After she releases the ball, she transfers the glove onto her right hand to field.
As for the four-wheeler accident, Brooklyn says, “I admit I was going a little fast.” Ashleigh still has debilitating headaches as a result of the crash. Neither she nor Brooklyn is bitter about the misfortune of that day though.
“Yeah, we joke about it all the time,” Brooklyn says. “She’s like, ‘I was only the one riding. You were the one driving.’” Brooklyn has advice for other people going through hard times or trying to accomplish a goal. “Whoever’s in a situation like that shouldn’t just give up because they don’t think they can do something. If they put their mind to it, I believe they can.”