11-year-old left scalped by carnival ride smiles during surprise public appearance
For the first time since being horrifically scalped in a freak carnival ride accident in Nebraska, the 11-year-old victim was all smiles as she addressed the public about her recovery.
Though Elizabeth Gilreath's mom, Virginia Cooksey, has been speaking out since the accident during a Cinco de Mayo celebration in Omaha, the University of Nebraska Medical Center said the public appearence was the girl's idea.
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"[Elizabeth] joined us at the last minute. It was a complete surprise," the hospital's publicist Taylor Wilson told InsideEdition.com. "Ten minutes beforehand, her mom said Elizabeth was up for it."
Her can-do attitude continued through the press conference. Elizabeth, nicknamed Lulu, smiled and giggled as her mom updated the public on her status.
"It's what keeps me going. It's what keeps me strong," Cooksey said when she was asked about her daughter's laughter.
As fate would have it, Lulu giggled in response to her mom's answer, demonstrating her positive outlook throughout her treatment despite having a long road of healing ahead.
She can be seen in her wheelchair during the press conference, and wears bandages over the top of her head, where she suffered the most extensive injury after her long, red hair was caught in a carnival ride's spinning mechanism, leaving her scalped.
But, her mom said doctors are happy with the progress. Though they first believed she may not regain eyesight in addition to not being able to regrow hair, her mom said that she can now see out of both eyes, even though one appears to be surgically shut as it heals.
"Elizabeth is a very tough patient," her mom said in the Friday press conference as her daughter held her hand.
Though Lulu announced confidently at the hospital's press conference, "I'm getting out on Monday or Tuesday," Cooksey wrote in a Facebook post over the weekend that she has been scheduled for more surgery and will not go home until a later date.
"She's so tired and ready to [go] home," Cooksey writes. "I keep telling her [baby] steps and it's all in (God's) time."
In support of the 11-year-old's recovery, strangers from all over the U.S. are leaving encouraging messages on her mom's Facebook.
"Keep on rocking Miss Lulu. Your an awesome courageous lil girl," one post read.
Another said: "We are all praying for you!! Your smile lights up on camera & in pics. You are a very special little lady. You got this!!"
After recovery, the family's next goal is to "get laws passed [about] safety" Lulu said.
According to Cooksey's Facebook page, they have already begun a lawsuit seeking justice for her injuries on the ride called King's Crown, at a carnival run by Thomas D. Thomas Shows.