This Five-Year-Old Girl Was Scalped By A Go-Kart, And Now Her Parents Are Warning Others

When Lani Use and her family attended a party, they didn’t expect it would end in horror. However, that’s exactly what happened when a terrible accident swept up Lani during an apparently safe activity. The little girl was playing on a motorized go-kart mere feet away from her parents when things went awry.

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A loud noise and cries suddenly split the pleasant atmosphere as Lani’s enjoyment turned to pain, then terror. And her parents were equally distraught when they saw what had happened to their daughter in just seconds. The accident left Lani bleeding on the go-kart with serious injuries requiring a frantic race to the hospital.

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The go-kart that entertained Lani so much had literally scalped her and resulted in skull fractures. Now her parents are hoping others will learn from their traumatic experience to avoid suffering in the same way. But what could have happened on a child’s go-kart to lead to a five-year-old girl’s surgery?

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The October 2018 party, which took place in a Louisiana backyard, should have been a celebration. All of Lani’s loved ones were present, including mom Macie Gautreaux, dad Jacob Use and step-granddad Jason Blanchard. And that’s exactly how it began before events took a turn for the worse.

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To be specific, Lani was having a great time in the yellow go-kart, which once belonged to her uncle. And while the vehicle was a metal-framed, motor-driven build, it was specifically designed as a child’s toy. For example, it even had a speed setting on it called “turtle.”

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The go-kart’s motor itself – a gas-powered mechanism – is positioned on the rear of the vehicle behind the seat. “[Lani] was really, really excited,” Gautreaux told Inside Edition of her daughter’s time on the motorized toy in July 2019. But of course, the family responsibly took precautions against potential accidents.

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Firstly, Lani was limited to the turtle speed. In addition, Gautreaux put her daughter’s hair in a bun. “I just tied it up like this,” the little girl’s mother told Inside Edition, indicating her own tied-back hairstyle. They took a third precaution, too: her father was close by, as he described in his own words.

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“I was walking right alongside of [Lani],” Use described, “I was probably five or six feet away from her.” Indeed, the home video the family took of the little girl shuttling around the yard confirms as much. It shows her happy and laughing as she she bounces around in the kid’s yellow-painted go-kart.

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“We live in Louisiana,” Gautreaux explained to The Sun. “And riding go-karts and four-wheelers is just something we do here.” But little did the Use family know that the day would end in tragedy from something so apparently harmless. It turned out that even being right next to Lani couldn’t prevent what happened next.

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Lani was having the best time going around in circles on her go-kart, but the vehicle was bumpy. As a result, the motion disturbed the youngster’s hairstyle, which came slightly loose from its bun. Suddenly, she was in danger, and neither the little girl nor her parents realized until it was too late.

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The home recording reveals how Lani rode the go-kart right past her father, who reached out for the frame. However, when he missed, his daughter then drove towards the camera, and that’s when the accident happened. As Gautreaux told The Sun, “It was terrifying, it was like a horror movie.”

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Gautreaux continued, “[Lani] was riding in circles on turtle mode on my brother’s old go-kart. It was going slow enough that we could walk right beside her. I was walking in front of her when I suddenly heard screaming.” The parents then watched the whole disaster unfold in front of them.

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“When Lani let her head fall back, her hair became trapped in the motor belt behind her, and it pulled her whole head back,” Gautreaux recounted. But that was the least of the Use family’s worries, as the mom recalled. She said that it also scalped the little girl almost completely.

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“The right side of [Lani’s] scalp was just hanging off,” Gautreaux elaborated. “It was ripped from the front all the way to the nape of her neck.” In addition to her obvious grisly injuries, when the little girl’s head hit the go-kart, the impact caused serious damage. In fact, she had signs of brain trauma.

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“[Lani] was drifting in and out of consciousness,” Gautreaux said. “And her eyes were rolling into the back of her head.” Then there was the problem of the little girl’s hair, which was still jammed in the motor belt, to contend with. Her grandmother had a solution to that issue, at least.

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As Gautreaux told The Sun, “My mom was screaming at someone to get a knife or scissors. My stepdad physically cut [Lani’s] hair with a knife.” While the little girl was free, however, her family could also see the extent of the damage. Indeed, the sight just escalated concerns for her life.

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In addition to Lani’s loose scalp, the accident severely fractured her skull, making medical treatment essential. And although someone had called emergency services, they might have arrived too late to save the five-year-old. Consequently, her parents took matters into their own hands and whisked her off in a personal vehicle.

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“The ambulance was taking so long that we bundled her into a car and brought her to the hospital, which was a mile away,” Gautreaux revealed. “We had to hold her scalp to her head with a towel because you could see her skull and her brain.” But another unpleasant surprise followed.

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But when the Use family got Lani to the hospital, the facility wasn’t equipped to deal with such traumatic injuries. As a result, an air ambulance had to deliver the little girl to another institution to try and save her life. Their destination was New Orleans’ Ochsner Medical Center, where doctors could perform the necessary surgery.

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Lani didn’t have to wait long for her surgery either, as doctors arranged her operation for the following morning. Nevertheless, Gautreaux described the wait as “a really difficult night,” and understandably so, as her daughter’s condition hadn’t stabilized. From the mom’s perspective, in fact, the little girl’s survival was very much touch and go.

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“[Lani] was in the ICU and her heart rate was dropping, as well as her oxygen levels,” Gautreaux said. “They were trying to keep her up, because when she fell asleep her vitals went nuts. I thought I would lose her.” On the other hand, the little girl’s surgeon was confident about her recovery.

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Gautreaux clarified what the physician said about Lani in an interview with Inside Edition. “He reassured me that she was going to have her hair, and he was going to save her,” she said. But after receiving such injuries, the young girl needed a five-hour operation to repair her damaged head.

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It turned out that when Lani’s head hit the back of the go-kart, the impact fractured her skull. Indeed, the bone was broken in four different locations. And there was also brain damage to contend with, caused by lacerations to her brain. Doctors could save her, though it was unclear if she’d suffer any lasting side effects.

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With this in mind, surgeons went ahead and performed life-saving surgery on little Lani, starting with her brain injuries. The next step was to reseal her broken skull, which physicians did with the aid of dissolvable plates. The technology they employed is incredible and very useful for younger patients.

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In the past, doctors used metal plates and pins for sealing bones together. And in some cases, they still do. Back in 1984, however, Finland’s Tampere University of Technology had a medical breakthrough with a device that changed everything. To be specific, scientists created an implant that the human body can absorb.

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Helsinki University Hospital in Finland rolled out the first successful implant of this kind for one of its patients. Since then, the technology has only improved, making devices that dissolve internally an alternative for delicate surgeries. Although they’re not suited for every situation, these implants have several advantages over metal ones.

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Doctors often use metal plates for sealing bones together because they’re both strong and permanent. That very feature makes them less useful for surgery on young patients, though, because they’ve yet to fully grow. Therefore, as a young person’s body changes, the metal fixtures move around inside – something experts call “migrating.”

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Migrating is especially true of facial and skull repairs, so it makes metal plates less palatable for children. Developing kids might even feel them inside their bodies over time. Dissolvable plates, then, suit these situations best, but surgeons also use them in other circumstances. When a patient is allergic to metal, for example.

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Lani needed six such dissolvable plates for her skull, and the surgeon’s work wasn’t finished there, either. Her scalp needed to be reconnected, which, in some circumstances, would require a skin graft. This procedure generally involves taking skin of varying amounts from an undamaged part of the body to aid healing.

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Fortunately, though, Lani was spared this measure and instead her doctor opted for an alternative recuperation method. He took the top of the little girl’s scalp and pulled it over to the right side of her head. It didn’t just cover the injury, but was also a prime place for regrowing the little girl’s lost nerves.

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Gautreaux told Inside Edition, “I thought [Lani] was gone, I didn’t think she was going to make it.” She did survive, but her parents had some initial concerns about their daughter’s mental and physical health post-surgery. To begin with, in the months following her operation the little girl developed seizures akin to epileptic episodes.

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Epilepsy experts categorized seizures into different groups in 2017 to aid with professional diagnosis and treatment. Lani showed signs of suffering focal seizures, which affect a single part – or focal point – of the brain. “She has little seizures every day which doctors are investigating,” Gautreaux said, according to The Sun.

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Lani’s mother continued, “She just stares into space for a few minutes and feels very tired afterwards. We have an appointment in April about this, but it is likely something she will cope with for life.” Medical examinations to resolve the matter later revealed something that concerned the little girl’s parents.

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“[Lani’s] EEG in January said her brain activity was abnormal, which is worrying,” Gautreaux explained. “But we have to take each day as it comes and do the best we can for her.” In addition to that, she also suffered some eyesight problems and nerve damage to her left side.

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The little girl is encountering some psychological issues too, as her mother explained. “[She] loved dancing and cheering before the accident. She has to be careful now with her brain injury. She can’t tumble and loud noises scare her. And she doesn’t want to be too far away from us at any point,” she said.

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“After the accident [Lani] was really depressed,” Gautreaux went on. “She cried a lot, and she didn’t like how she looked. It was heart-breaking.” The little girl also apparently suffered from post-traumatic stress, so her mom arranged a therapist appointment for her. Other positive aspects in the five-year-old’s life helped, too.

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Apparently, Gautreaux was heavily pregnant when Lani had her accident and feared the stress would induce labor. It didn’t, though, and she delivered the baby – a little girl called Presley – just a few months later. “She is the best big sister in the world. It’s so sweet,” Gautreaux told The Sun.

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“It’s been some light in a truly terrible time,” Lani’s mom added. On a similar optimistic note, the little girl’s hair grew back as healthy as ever just nine months after the accident. She also had a message for Inside Edition when the cameras turned to her: she said, “I’m happy!”

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As for Lani’s parents, they want to take the opportunity to warn other parents of the dangers of go-karts. Even if you think you’ve taken precautions, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Gautreaux said, “After the accident I would not be comfortable with her riding one herself. I had tied her hair into a bun that day, but it came loose.”

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“I would make sure children’s hair is tied up securely and they are wearing a helmet,” the mom-of-two concluded. “Lani was riding the go-kart on ‘turtle mode’ and this still happened. I want to share my story so another child doesn’t have to go through the pain my daughter has endured.”

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