Los Angeles Fire Department

12-Year-Old Girl Who Survived Traumatic Brain Injury Reunites With First Responders

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She survived without brain damage, and got the chance to thank the first responders a year later. Kim Baldonado reports Oct. 21, 2021. Courtesy: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

A 12-year-old girl from LA who survived a traumatic brain injury got the chance to thank the first responders a year later.

Lalia Susini is overcome with emotion as she thanked the people who saved her lifea year ago.

“I don’t know how to thank everybody…" Susini said.

“She had a look of panic on her face," Jose Perez, firefighter paramedic with the LA City Fire Department said.

Perez was among the first on scene after Susini's fun afternoon on a swing turned tragic.

"The metal fixture holding the swing broke loose, it crashed into her head and tragically cut into her skull," Eric Scott, Captain of the LA City Fire Department said.

"She locked onto my name plate. She’s all 'Perez! You’re not going to let me die are you?' And I said 'no I’m not going to let you die, not in my watch, not today,'” Perez said.

The 12 year old had already suffered a stroke, lost a lot of blood, and could not move her left side.

"My family was super super scared especially my mom, she was shaking but when Perez got there, he knew how to calm my family down," SUsini said.

"Her open brain was devastating to witness,” Dr. Nucholas Melo, Trauma Surgeon at Cedars Sinai Medical Center said.

For the medical team at Cedars Sinai and later at Children’s Hospital LA, where she underwent rehabilitation, the goal was not only to keep Lalia alive, but also to ensure she could remain as athletic and active as she’s always been.

It was not an easy task when she couldn’t walk or do daily activities on her own after the accident.

"She defied the odds and made significant recovery," Kevan Craig, chief of pediatric rehabilitation at Children's Hospital LA.

Lalia has developed a bond with the doctors and nurses who were part of her incredible recovery, as well as with everyone at fire station 19, especially the one she pleaded with not to let her die one year ago.

"When a kid says those words, you better have an answer and you better mean it and back it up, and I did," Perez said.