Seven-year-old hero - Mikayla Quinn
"You gotta get me some help. I can't last much longer," was what young Mikayla last heard from her 79-year-old great-grandmother out of the shadowed interior of the crashed pickup cab.
At around 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 9, Marie Lamm was driving back from doing chores for a friend north of Philip. Seven-year-old Mikayla Quinn, staying for two weeks with grandparents Joe and Kathy Gittings, was riding along to help.
Having gotten back in the pickup on the 100-plus degree day, Mikayla remembers saying, "It's pretty darn hot in here." Marie took her eyes off the country road for just a second to adjust the air conditioning. The pickup swerved on the loose gravel, first to the right, then across the road to the left. Marie over-corrected and the pickup spun clockwise, crashing over onto its driver's side.
Marie remained motionless, having been seriously slammed by the interior of the vehicle and the airbag. In the back jump-seat area, Mikayla hung in mid-air from the passenger side seatbelt. The pick-up's engine was still running.
"I couldn't see her because it was dark in there," says Mikayla. "I called for great-grandma. I put my feet on the front seat and the headrest, and my hand on the upper headrest. Then I could get out of the seatbelt.
"Great-grandma said to open the door. I couldn't. She told me to try the window. I did," says Mikayla. Though the air conditioning was now not working, the power window was operating. Using the headrests as footholds and the door frame as a handhold, Mikayla pulled herself up until she could climb outside onto the door of the partially overturned pickup.
"I leaned back over to tell her that I would get help," remembers Mikayla. "I could kind of see her. Blood was hanging from skin that was peeled from her head. That wasn't very good."
The girl stepped down onto something that was actually the bottom of the pickup - it was very hot - then she jumped. "I started walking, started praying and crying," says Mikayla. When she got to a "T" intersection in the gravel road, "I could hear cars over there, so I chose that way. It took me a while to walk to the highway." Scared, disoriented and wearing sandals, she had walked two and a half miles in an hour and a half. "When I was almost there, I saw some bikers coming, so I ran the rest of the way. I waved my arms and yelled, 'Help! Help!' " she recalls.
"They went by me, then stopped. One rode back and asked, 'What's the matter little girl?' He told me to get on his bike and we went over to the other two. They had cellphones and called 911. Those bikers were good guys," says Mikayla. Those three were Kevin Jucht from Bridgewater, Lynn Schwitz from Emery and Thomas Miller from Hartford.
The next little while, as far as Mikayla recalls, was full of activity. Kathy helped with the names of the other good samaritans. Dave Marone and Mike Schultz came by in a truck. Mike happens to be an emergency medical technician. Two law officers arrived; one eventually continued on north, while Haakon County Deputy Sheriff Tom Jeans stayed. A rescue unit from Philip arrived. Jim Nickelson and Nathan Drury also happened upon the scene.
"I was burning hot," says Mikayla. "I had no water, no bathroom, nothing. The ambulance went to great-grandma and stayed there for a while. The people with me gave me some water. When the ambulance came back, they asked me if I wanted to ride in back with her. I said 'no', because she was hurt and that might have been scary to me. She might have looked pretty gross with that big cut." Mikayla rode up front in a seatbelt. Marie was conscious and cracked jokes, one being, "I'll give you a $100 for some water."
Kathy, who happens to be a nurse, arrived at the Philip hospital just after the ambulance got there. "Someone brought me a popsicle," recalls Mikayla. "We watched great-grandma's bed go into the x-ray room, and we saw her come back; that's how long we were there.
"Then," admits Mikayla, "I got scared a little for a few days." Mikayla suffered a little bit of a black eye and a scrape that wasn't deep enough to bleed.
Marie was air-lifted to the Rapid City Regional Hospital. Her head injury, a large but clean cut, required numerous staples and stitches, according to Kathy. Marie's ball and socket of her right shoulder had to be surgically replaced. Both main bones in her right wrist were broken.
"I was glad that I was there," says Mikayla, "otherwise great-grandma might be dead."