Aug. 15 was supposed to be the beginning of a fun weekend for Kailyn ‘Kiki’ Hinkle, a time to escape the heat while boating on Lake Pleasant.
But what was to have been a quick early-morning stop at Fry’s on Ray Road forever changed the 10-year-old Ahwatukee girl’s world when she was struck by a boat trailer, dragged beneath it and pinned by the axle at her hips until paramedics came to extract her.
Her parents rushed to the side of their only daughter and they, too, found themselves in a forever-altered world.
The fifth grader at Kyrene de los Lagos sustained life-threatening internal injuries that required a stay in the Cardon Children’s Hospital ICU for 10 days.
Among her injuries were nine left-rib fractures in front and back, a lacerated left kidney and a left lower lung contusion that resulted in blood pooling in her chest cavity. She also sustained a pleural effusion, resulting in excess fluid around her lungs that impaired breathing.
Her face, hands, arms and torso sustained severe burns from the hot asphalt that will require plastic surgery to repair.
Just days after being admitted, Kiki went into respiratory distress after a chest tube was inserted to drain the fluid from her lung.
She was placed on high-flow oxygen and scheduled for surgery to “plate her ribs,” which requires the insertion of titanium plates to stabilize the ribs while they are healing.
And this is where Kiki’s positive spirit stepped up, putting her doctors and nurses in awe.
“In an amazing turn of events, late that same night, Kiki began to rally,” said her mom, Laura McElhone Myers. She became more alert and awake and requested to resume her breathing exercises.
“Her oxygen needs began to decrease, and by mid-morning the next day she was on only four liters of regular oxygen and could sustain a safe oxygen level on room air for short periods of time.”
“When the trauma surgeon arrived for morning rounds the day of her surgery, he was shocked to find a completely different patient than he left the evening prior. After careful consideration and multiple assessments, Kiki’s trauma team cancelled the operation. She quickly became the talk of the unit,” she recalled.
“Kiki’s doctor told her the day of her discharge that she was one of the toughest patients he’d treated, and that her strong will and determination to get better was something she should be proud of because it directly affected the improvement of her condition.”
The youngster, who has lived in Ahwatukee since she was five months old, faces a long, grueling road to recovery with nurses, physical and occupational therapists working with her daily at home.
“Kiki will require multiple therapies for an extended period, and around-the-clock care at home. Surgery to try and repair damage to her face is being scheduled and will be completed within the coming weeks,” said Myers.
She said a pediatric plastic surgeon warned there could be “extensive scarring” on her face and body from the burns incurred from road rash.
Even with her only child within arm’s reach once again, Myers still feels the pain of that day.
“The horror and helplessness of seeing your child seriously injured, knowing you cannot fix it, is an indescribable feeling of fear. In one moment, our lives changed completely,” she said.
“Add to that the expense of a long hospital stay, then upon release knowing your child needs 24/7 care and being well aware you cannot afford to be off work to provide that care, adds desperation and panic to the fear.”
It wasn’t long before the Ahwatukee community stepped up to help the family.
A neighbor and close friend began raising money at her workplace. Diana Lopez shared the family’s needs on Ahwatukee 411 resulting in many donations. Ahwatukee’s Zesty Zzeeks Pizza and Wings held a fundraiser.
And Ahwatukee-based Armer Foundation for Kids opened a donation account on their webpage and is sponsoring both a Caring for Kiki Community Sale on Sept. 26 and a Caring for Kiki Golf Outing on Oct. 4 at Ahwatukee Country Club.
The caring and immediate monetary assistance allows Myers to remain with her daughter while working part-time from home in her career as a speech therapist.
The family has been moved by the outpouring of generosity.
“I am thankful for all of the people helping me,” said Kiki through her mother.
Her mother added, “It’s hard for me to express the level of gratitude I feel when I think about how many people have come together to share their thoughts & prayers and show their love and support for Kiki and our family. We are all so grateful.”
“When something like this happens to your child, as a mother, your only wish is to make everything better and to, of course, be with them when they need you. When a child is sick or hurting, they want their mommy.
“I want the people of Ahwatukee to realize that because of their generosity and their willingness to open their hearts and donate the money they work hard for, I do not have to choose between being present for my little girl and helping her work through this traumatic event or leaving her to go to work all day so we can survive financially. Their generosity has allowed me to finally exhale.”
And yet, there is work to do, and Jennifer Armer, CEO of the nonprofit Armer Foundation for Kids, is actively seeking assistance from local businesses and residents.
The Caring for Kiki Community Sale is scheduled for 7 a.m. to noon Saturday morning, Sept. 26, and at this writing will be held in the Keller-Williams parking lot at Desert Foothills and Chandler Blvd.
Yet Armer has a vision that she hopes will become reality before that Saturday morning.
“I’d really like to have someone donate an empty commercial space in Ahwatukee that we could use to accept the donations, and allow us to set it up ahead of time indoors,” said Armer. “My long-term vision is to have a commercial property manager donate a space for a tax write-off so we might start a Resource Center for the community. Say someone has a fire, they could come to the center and get whatever they need.”
Regardless where the Caring for Kiki Community Sale is held, donations are being accepted now and can be dropped off or picked up by calling or texting the Armer Foundation at 480-290-2977.
Some items are being presold on the Facebook site, Armer Foundation Buying for Charity.
Monetary donations for Kiki and her family, as well as other local families in need, can be made at ArmerFoundation.org.
As for the Caring for Kiki Golf Outing Sunday, Oct. 4, Armer is looking for sponsors at $100 a hole.
“I know that’s lower than most but we’re trying to keep it affordable for sponsors and golfers,” Armer said. “We want to get as much help for Kiki and her family as we can.”
The entry fee of $50 per player or $200 for the team for the 8 a.m. shotgun includes the tourney entry, golf cart, range balls, lunch and drink ticket. The hole sponsorship includes hole signage, lunch, drink ticket and announced acknowledgement at the luncheon.
Hole sponsors and golfers can sign up at email@example.com Golfers can also call the Ahwatukee Country Club pro Shop at 480-893-1161.
For everything Ahwatukee is doing to help their daughter Kiki, Luke Hinkle and Laura Myers remain thankful, and see it as a shining example for their daughter of what community is.
“I don’t know that there’s any possible way to thank each person individually because there are so many people helping that I don’t even know who many of them are. I do know that I will be forever grateful to all of the people helping, and that my daughter will always know how lucky she is to be a part of a community like Ahwatukee.”
For more information on Kiki or other children and families being helped by the grassroots foundation, see ArmerFoundation.org.