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Fox Lake toddler recovering after being dragged 200 feet by car
By Vincent Pierri | Daily Herald Staff

Skiler has had to endure a series of surgeries to repair a baseball-sized wound on her skull and severe injuries to her shoulder.

 

Vincent Pierri | Staff Photographer

Surrounded by photos of her family and images of her favorite Sesame Street character, Elmo, Skiler will be a patient at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital at least through October.

 

Vincent Pierri | Staff Photographer

Skiler's parents, Crystal and Raimond, say they are looking forward to the day when their daughter can finally come home.

 

Vincent Pierri | Staff Photographer

Skiler Wright is recovering from injuries after being dragged 200 feet by a car in August.

 

Vincent Pierri | Staff Photographer

Raimond Wright said his daughter Skiler was playing near the end of the family's driveway, foreground, when a 1999 Dodge Intrepid backed out of the driveway, upper left, and struck her.

 

Vincent Pierri | Staff Photographer

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Published: 10/22/2009 12:01 AM

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She's a little peanut. Just 24 pounds.

With a smile that could melt the coldest heart, Skiler Wright's cherubic face is framed by white gauze.

The 4-year-old keeps her blue eyes fixed on the TV. Elmo's antics take her attention away from the tube attached to the top of her head. The thick bandages on her shoulder go unnoticed for now.

It's another afternoon in the hospital. One of nearly 60 days the Fox Lake girl has spent there since being dragged 200 feet by a car on a warm August night.

As she recovers, those who know her best say her determination is inspiring.

Sadly, Skiler is no stranger to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.

Born with medical conditions that affect her pituitary gland, she's smaller than normal. She suffers from kidney and stomach problems that have required occasional tube feedings. She's been in and out of the hospital since birth.

"She's a fighter and has been the whole time," nurse Bonnetta Joy said. "She's survived an awful lot of things."

Skiler's latest ordeal began in the driveway of her home Aug. 25.

Her dad, Raimond, 28, and mom Crystal, 29, left Skiler and her 3-year-old sister Adrianna with Raimond's dad while the couple shopped for groceries.

Raimond Wright said Skiler was playing with pebbles near the end of her driveway. His dad and sister Renee were chatting close by.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a 1999 Dodge Intrepid struck the toddler while backing out of a driveway from across the narrow street.

"My dad heard Adrianna screaming, 'Skiler! Skiler!'" Raimond Wright said. "My dad looked around as the car pulled away and he didn't see Skiler. His first thought was that she got kidnapped."

Horribly, the little girl was stuck underneath the car and was being dragged across the pavement as the vehicle pulled away.

"She was caught under the bumper, muffler and gas tank," Crystal Wright said. "Everyone was screaming for the driver to stop. She eventually did, but it was about eight houses down by the time she stopped."

The scene on Arlington Road was chaotic.

"The paramedics were just putting her on the board when we got there," Raimond Wright said. "I was screaming and angry and they didn't allow me to see anything. They held me back."

Skiler was flown to Lutheran General where she underwent emergency brain surgery.

The driver was driving on a revoked license. She lost her license after being charged with driving on a suspended license four times between November 2004 and February 2005, according to the Illinois secretary of state's office. She may be charged in the accident after the Major Crash Assistance Team of Lake County finishes its investigation, Fox Lake police said.

Since the accident, plastic surgeons have been working to repair a baseball-sized wound on Skiler's head and severe abrasions to her shoulder. The doctors say she's lucky to be alive.

"She lost a good part of her scalp and sustained an injury to her skull," Dr. Eric Odyssey said. "The injury to her shoulder is large as well. We had to move a large piece of the scalp from the left to the right side of her head to cover the exposed bone."

Odyssey and partner Dr. Loren Schechter have performed eight surgeries on Skiler so far. The doctors say Skiler's prognosis for recovery is good, though she'll likely be in the hospital at least through the end of the month.

They also admire her spirit.

"She's handling all the surgeries like a champ," Odyssey said. "As her surgeon, she might see me as the Grim Reaper when I walk into her room, but she responds so well. She'll hold my hand and say 'hi' and ask me when I'm coming back when I leave the room. She's a sweet and smart kid."

Raimond Wright, an iron foundry worker, is on short-term medical disability. Crystal Wright is a stay-at-home mom expecting her third child next month.

Raimond Wright's health insurance is covering only a portion of the cost of Skiler's treatment. "We're looking at huge bills," he said.

In addition, Wright said making multiple 60-mile round trips to Park Ridge can empty the gas tank in a hurry.

Some community members have stepped up to help fill the gaps.

Students at Antioch Upper Grade School held a "PJ's for Skiler" benefit where students paid $1 to wear pajamas to school for the day. The kids raised $375 and gave it to the Wrights.

The Burger King in Fox Lake is selling $1 food coupons and will donate the proceeds.

And a fund has been set up through National City Bank to help the Wrights with medical and other bills related to the accident. Checks made out to the "Skiler Ann Grace Wright Fund" are being accepted at any branch of the bank, Raimond Wright said.

Cards, letters and donations can also be made at www.hugsandhope.org.

He knows his daughter has a sweet side, but she can be tough, too, Wright said.

"She's had to fight since day one," he said. "She's showing everyone how much fight she has in her. She's not done, by any means."