During a family party, a loved one recorded, trying to capture the day’s fun moments on video. Instead, a horrific tragedy unfolded in front of the camera when a little girl’s go-kart ride left her scalped with her brain exposed.
Lani Use was excitedly soaking up the Louisiana sun, thrilled at the opportunity to ride in a 17-year-old four-wheeled go-kart, designed for children, during a family party. Seeing her 5-year-old daughter’s excitement, Lani’s mom Macie Gautreaux Use stood back and watched as her daughter’s laughter and giggles were recorded on video. “She was really, really excited,” Macie recalled, explaining that Lani was having a great time.
As the young girl drove the gas-powered vehicle across the yard, her father Jacob stayed close by, keeping a watchful eye. Lani zoomed around at a somewhat slow and seemingly safe pace, thrilled by the adventure she was having. Everyone was having fun, especially Lani, who squealed with delight as her dad walked along right beside her, never sensing the impending danger his daughter was in until Lani’s joyous sounds were replaced by ones of sheer terror.
Although Lani’s mom had made sure to pull her daughter’s hair back into a tight bun, the bumpy ride in the go-kart had shaken some strands of hair loose as Lani bounced around in the driver’s seat while traveling across the yard. Before anyone knew what was happening, the gear belt of the go-kart’s motor, which is positioned behind the driver’s seat, had caught onto Lani’s long blonde hair. In a split second, Lani’s gleeful giggles turned to screams of utter horror.
Family members watched in horror as Lani was yanked back toward the engine, smashing her skull. In an instant, one side of her scalp was ripped off from her hairline to her neck and her skull was fractured in four different places. “I was walking in front of her when I suddenly heard screaming,” Macie explained. “When Lani let her head fall back her hair became trapped in the motor belt behind her and it pulled her whole head back.”
“It was like a horror movie,” Macie recalled, describing the moment she saw her daughter’s horrific injuries. “The right side of her scalp was just hanging off. It was ripped from the front all the way to the nape of her neck. She was drifting in and out of consciousness and her eyes were rolling into the back of her head.”
As family members screamed, Lani’s grandfather rushed to free her from the motor. After he cut her hair with a knife, releasing her from the engine’s grasp, Lani’s grandmother stayed at her side, having to physically hold her scalp to her head. “That’s my baby girl,” dad Jacob Use said, recalling the horrific sight and the thoughts that flooded his mind.
With her brain and skull exposed, Lani was rushed to the local hospital. Her parents were given a grim prognosis as she was airlifted to Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, where doctors performed emergency surgery to repair lacerations to her brain and bind her fractured skull together. The extensive procedure lasted a grueling 5 hours. As those critical moments passed, Macie feared the worst, unsure whether her daughter would survive.
“I thought she was gone. I didn’t think she was going to make it,” Macie said. Thankfully, Lani Use made a miraculous recovery — although she’s done with go-karts, for now. Doctors were not only able to save her life, but they were able to save her hair, too. Plastic surgeons were able to cover the wound and even saved her from having a painful skin graft. “It’s definitely a miracle that she is here with us today,” a grateful Macie said.
Although Lani’s family is overcoming the trauma of seeing their young daughter partially scalped, the frightening ordeal isn’t one her parents just want to completely forget. Instead, they hope to warn others by sharing their story, knowing it’s a miracle that Lani is alive and well — and others might not be so lucky if they suffer the same circumstances.
“I want to share my story so another child doesn’t have to go through the pain my daughter has endured,” Macie said, adding that she hopes Lani’s ordeal will stress the importance of wearing helmets while riding, even when going slow. Indeed, the simple act of wearing a helmet would have likely prevented this tragedy completely, and the importance of this simple safety precaution can’t be overstated.