The sun was bright when Lyla Conrad and her father arrived early for softball practice to catch a few pop flies. Lyla, 9 at the time, had caught hundreds before, but that day she lost one in the sun. It fell straight down into her eye. Almost immediately, her eye was swollen and she felt incredibly nauseous.
“We thought she had a concussion,” said Sari-Kim Conrad, Lyla’s mother. “We never thought a softball could do so much damage.”
After receiving an initial check-up at a local emergency room, she was transported by ambulance to another area hospital for further tests. The diagnosis: an orbital “trapdoor” fracture. Lyla would need surgery, and soon.
“The eye muscle was pinched by the broken bone, cutting off the blood supply, preventing the eye from moving, and making her feel sick,” said Dr. Raymond Tse, a plastic surgeon at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where Lyla was transferred for immediate surgery. “If not released quickly, the muscle could have been permanently injured resulting in loss of eye movement and double vision.”
“A whole team was there for us – anesthesiologists, nurses and doctors,” said Conrad. “They were really organized. It did a lot in calming me down; I was a wreck.”
Orbital fractures are not a common injury in kids, but Seattle Children’s does see a few cases every year, according to Tse. Typically, it is unusual for a facial fracture to need to be fixed immediately. Lyla’s case was a rare circumstance, but one that could be treated quickly after arriving at Seattle Children’s.
Getting back to softball
Lyla stayed at Seattle Children’s overnight. Tse came into their room the next morning to check on her. Shortly after, Lyla was discharged.
Recovery would take several months, but eventually, Lyla returned to softball. She was able to play the last two games of the season, in the outfield. The only difference was that she needed to wear a protective mask for safety.
Today, Lyla is 11 years old, celebrating two-years post surgery, and has moved up to fast pitch. She still wears a mask for protection, but it doesn’t inhibit her ability to play. She even wears it while playing soccer.
“We still don’t know how to thank Dr. Tse for everything he did for Lyla,” said Conrad. “What happened could have been really horrible. We understand the situation wasn’t life-threatening, but it was still a difficult ordeal to go through. Not only is Dr. Tse a skilled surgeon, his calm and compassionate demeanor made a traumatic experience less so. I’m so glad Lyla healed with virtually no lasting effects and is back to playing softball.”
The ordeal has taught Lyla and her family and lesson, one they would like to share with others: Accidents happen, but the response to the accident can make all the difference.
“We’re so glad we took her into the emergency room as soon as we could,” said Conrad. “We were lucky. We never thought something like this could happen, and we want others to know.”