On Friday evening, July 24, Shyanna Hoenig Of Fort Madison, Iowa, was among a group of vacation bible school students who presented Fort Madison police with a collection of stuffed animals. The animals were to be given to children who had been in auto accidents or other traumatic situations.
Early the next morning, Shyanna was the recipient of just such a token, as she and six other members of her family were in a serious accident while heading to the St. Louis Zoo.
"We were headed south on Highway 61, and I saw a car sitting in the median," recalls Shyanna's mother, Sarah Hoenig. "Before I knew it, he pulled out and I swerved to miss him." The other driver struck the Hoenigs' van in the side and sent it into a rock bluff at a speed estimated at 55 to 60 miles per hour. Shyanna was the most seriously injured occupant and was taken to SSM St. Joseph Hospital West in Lake St. Louis for evaluation. Doctors there decided she needed the special acute care available in the Level I trauma center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center.
Shyanna, the oldest of four children in the family, required abdominal surgery to remove three sections of damaged intestine. She also suffered an injury to her aorta, the largest artery in the body, which provides flow of oxygenated blood from the heart to major organs.
"One part of her intestine looked like hamburger; another part looked like a truck ran over it," her mother said. "She was wearing a seat belt, and they're supposed to save your life not harm you. But when (seat belts) aren't used properly they can kill you."
|Shyanna's injuries occurred because she was riding in the middle of a seat row with only a lap belt that damaged her intestines and aorta when the crash occurred. Safe Kids St. Louis recommends that children ride in a booster seat until they are 4 feet, 9 inches tall and weigh between 80 and 100 pounds. Booster seats cause the seat belt to cross at the child's lap rather than their abdomen, preventing serious injury.
During her stay at Cardinal Glennon, Shyanna received balloons, stuffed animals - even Cardinals baseball tickets for a more pleasant return to St. Louis at the end of August.
"The nurses are nice and the doctors are here to help you. It might hurt sometimes, but it makes you feel better," Shyanna says of her hospital stay. "The best part is you get stuffed animals and people visit you and pray for you (seven churches prayed for her) and want you to get better."