Little Kimberly Williams began her long, painful recovery yesterday as she underwent the first operation necessary to repair the damage done by a stray large-caliber bullet that ripped through her face.
The 2-year-old girl was sitting with her mother on the steps of their East Baltimore rowhouse, enjoying a balmy Tuesday afternoon, when gunfire erupted at the end of the block. One bullet struck Kimberly behind her left ear, breaking her jaw and traveling through her front teeth and upper lip.
Police arrested Enrique Montel Parker, 22, of the 2800 block of Hillsdale Ave., a short time later and charged him with the shooting.
Kimberly was listed in critical but stable condition at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center yesterday. The doctors who treated her said she was a lucky girl. Had the bullet not changed direction after striking bone, it might have severed her spinal cord or brain stem, killing her. "She is incredibly lucky to have survived," said Dr. Charles Paidas, co-director of the pediatric trauma team.
Dr. Paidas said that in the past three weeks he's seen three child gunshot victims brought into the emergency room.
"This is a sad time for the city," Dr. Paidas said. "I'm talking about children under 2 years old getting caught in cross-fire."
"Too often," he said, the children who have been shot are so severely wounded that "they end up dying in the emergency room regardless of what we do."
When Kimberly was wheeled into the emergency room after the shooting, she was conscious and bleeding from her mouth and ear.
"She was crying and waving her arms a lot," said Dr. Scott R. Schell, the trauma surgeon who first treated her. It was a response he was glad to see, as it indicated to him that Kimberly was alert and "responding to her surroundings appropriately."
After determining there was no life-threatening damage, the trauma team sutured her wounds and inserted an air tube in her throat to help her breathe.
During yesterday's surgery, doctors removed damaged bone and tissue. Later, Kimberly will face more surgery to reconstruct her broken jaw and possible plastic surgery to repair her lip. A tear duct may have been damaged and would have to be surgically repaired. In addition, the little girl possibly suffered permanent dental damage, and may have to wear a bridge.
The greatest concern at this point is for infection and possible nerve damage, said Dr. Paidas. Nerve damage from a injury such as Kimberly's -- one that traumatizes the nerve and tissue around the wound -- cannot be determined for three or four days, he said.
Kimberly will most likely remain hospitalized for the next three weeks. Doctors hope to begin feeding her by tube sometime today or tomorrow, and if the swelling goes down, she will begin eating solid food in about a week.