Thirteen-year old Ashby has grown up around horses in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. She knows a lot about riding — and falling off. “It’s something that happens to everyone who rides,” she says. “I have probably fallen off my pony, Scout, 20 times.”

She fell off a friend’s horse while jumping in November 2019. “It felt like a normal fall,” she recalls, “I tried to get up, but my leg was bent and I couldn’t move it.” She went to an emergency room doctor in Winchester, Va. where the doctor called Children’s National Hospital for help. Ashby had a serious spiral fracture in her femur that could have injured her femoral artery (a large artery in the thigh that delivers oxygenated blood to the leg muscles).

“Children’s National sent the chopper right away,” Ashby recalls.

When the SkyBear rapid transport team arrived, her mother, Jo, felt relieved. “They were assertive and calm and clearly were experts in dealing with children and trauma.”

The 75-mile trip took only 27 minutes. Doctors in our trauma center put Ashby’s leg in traction and admitted her to the surgical ward. The next morning, orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Emily Niu inserted screws above and below her fracture. Within 24 hours Ashby was practicing with her crutches on the stairs. Dr. Niu performed another surgery in August 2020 to remove the rod placed in Ashby's femur. She was back to riding her ponies 8 weeks later.

“The level of expertise at Children’s National — from the doctors and the surgical staff to the wonderful nurses,” Jo says, “means that my daughter can do everything she loves to do.”

A young patient at Children's National Hospital.

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A young patient at Children's National Hospital.