ROCHESTER, Minnesota — Evelyn McKenzie was three years old when a driver failed to yield and hit the side of the family's car where Evelyn was sitting in her car seat.
The accident in November 2019 happened as Evelyn and her mom were just moments away from turning into their driveway.
"When I got to her door, I saw right away that something was terribly wrong," recalled Katie McKenzie, a primary care physician with Olmsted Medical Center.
Her husband, Kyle McKenzie, is also a doctor in Mayo Clinic's department of Community Internal Medicine.
Even though Evelyn was securely restrained in her car seat, she still suffered from injuries including a traumatic brain injury.
"The straps were all in the right spot. She was kind of perfectly positioned in there as I unclipped her. It all just seemed very unbelievable and surreal," Katie said.
Evelyn spent 46 days relearning how to roll over, sit up, eat, crawl, walk and talk again. Her parents say they can hardly slow her down now.
"It started with that car seat. It was a direct impact where Evelyn was sitting, just inches between her and the other car," Kyle said. "I don't think Evelyn's story goes like this if it wasn't for her being in that car seat and being in that car seat correctly."
The family is sharing their story as part of National Trauma Awareness Month in May. Trauma is the leading cause of death in the U.S. for people up to the age of 45-years-old.
"It's a silent thing, trauma... we don't expect that it's ever going to happen to us until it does," said Dr. Brian Kim, medical director of Mayo Clinic Level 1 Trauma Center.
According to Dr. Kim, there has been a 17% increase in the number of trauma patients they care for although Dr. Kim said it's unclear if the rise is related to the pandemic or not. They also have seen more interpersonal violence in the last year.
Mayo Clinic commonly sees traumatic injuries related to car accidents and falls.
Dr. Kim recommends people assess their homes and take note of what risks are within the house depending on who is living there.
"Half of our adult populace, the mechanism of injury is fall and it may range from just a fall from ground level to a fall from great height. So you have an elderly individual, for example, who is not using his or her walker or it's the middle of the night just getting to the restroom and falling," Dr. Kim said.
There are fall prevention programs available in southeast Minnesota, here.
With warmer weather on the way, more people are getting outside.
"That's when we tend to see a lot of bicycle injuries. The use of helmets and protective gear for those activities is critical and parents can certainly provide supervision and awareness of the environment. We even have guidelines to help," said Dr. Denise Klinker, chair of Mayo Clinic Pediatric Level I Trauma Center.
While 100% of injuries cannot be prevented, Dr. Kim said there are ways to prepare for those times.
The McKenzies took part in a car seat safety clinic when they went from an infant to toddler car seat. Mayo Clinic provides installation inspection clinics in Rochester. You can find more information, here.