While Ariel Salaices was playing in her family’s backyard, she was having a wonderful time. She felt safe and secure, and it was great playing on the swing set in the family’s yard in northeastern Tennessee. Ariel was in the yard with her 5-year-old brother on the spring-like day on March 15 when a stray bullet suddenly shot into the family’s yard and struck the 2-year-old girl in the back of her head.
Ariel had been standing on the slide when the bullet ricocheted off a metal post and lodged into her tiny skull. She fell and ran to her father. But the bullet was deep and stopped her movement, and before long, she was lying face down in the grass.
Her father had heard the shot. He ran to his beloved baby girl and scooped her up. She was bleeding profusely and was not responsive. He rushed her to the emergency room. But they were incapable of handling Ariel’s serious injuries. The little girl was airlifted about 50 miles away to the much more comprehensive care available at Johnson City Medical Center. From there, doctors transferred her to the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville.
Doctors hoped she would pull through. Because she was so young, they needed to make sure she didn’t move too much, so they kept her sedated. Before long, they realized that she had experienced a stroke because of the stray bullet.
Days later when she was ready, doctors sent her in for a CT scan. That showed that the bullet lodged into her brain and was blocking crucial blood flow. If doctors were going to be able to save her and rescue her from brain death, they needed to operate – now!
They removed part of Ariel’s skull and then helped ease the pressure building up in the side of her brain.
Her aunt, Stephanie Brown, was there throughout the process supporting the family and documenting everything on Facebook. She has since launched a GoFundMe fundraiser to help the family deal with the mounting medical bills.
Over the weekend, Ariel achieved stability. This was great news. The treatments were working. Now neurologists needed to monitor her progress to make sure the pressure inside of her skull did not build too much.
Meanwhile, the bullet had continued to move through her brain. Now it was in the front of her head instead of the back, but doctors were “happy where she stands,” right now.
Because someone had irresponsibly fired a gun and nearly killed an innocent 2-year-old at play in her family’s yard, Johnson County investigators want to find that person.
“The person who did this couldn’t have lived that far,” Sheriff Edward Tester told WYCB-TV. “Whether they know they did it or not. I think with all this information out there, I think they know who they are.”
Sheriff Tester wants people to remember how to use guns safely.
If you’re using a firearm and doing target practice or hunting, make sure you’re looking beyond where you’re shooting,” Tester said. “Because that bullet may not stop where you want it to.”