At age 6, Lily James had a double black diamond (expert) ski run in her rearview mirror. She was preternaturally athletic and destined to race, said her dad, Greg.
At age 7, as Lily struggled to turn on a junior slope, Greg and his wife Carol recognized their daughter’s other virtues: Grit. Perseverance. In July 2009, between those two ski seasons, Lily’s legs were crushed near the ankles and her right foot nearly severed.
While boating on Lake Washington, the family towed Lily and her brother on an oversized tube. On the way home, a gust pulled the tube from its cleat and into the air. Its line caught Lily’s legs and yanked her overboard.
Carol dialed 9-1-1. Greg pulled Lily back into the boat. "I didn’t think she would have her right foot by night’s end,” he said. “It was amazing to hear they were able to reattach it. I had no idea about Level I trauma centers and how Harborview handles so many difﬁcult cases. We were lucky to land there. We were in very good hands.”
Dr. Nicholas Vedder, UW Medicine’s chief of Plastic Surgery, a microsurgery specialist, and colleagues, repaired Lily’s broken bones and kept the right foot alive by restoring blood ﬂow with two vessel grafts from her upper leg. In a subsequent procedure, Vedder transplanted one of her latissimus muscles to replace tissue around Lily’s right ankle.
She is the most courageous patient I have ever treated,” said Vedder, inspired by Lily’s upbeat attitude during her monthlong stay at Harborview.
Lily has more surgery ahead but has come far, fast. “She gets around pretty well,” her dad said proudly. “I admire her toughness.”