After taking a spill from a swing set and landing on her neck, Nicole Praglowski was taken by ambulance to Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
Although a series of X-rays showed that the Joppa youngster's neck was OK, a CAT scan revealed three spots on her brain, said her father, Raymond Praglowski.
"They had no idea what the spots were," he said. "It was very scary not knowing what was wrong with Nicole."
While Nicole was undergoing more tests at the hospital, she was asked to draw a holiday picture.
"I drew four different kinds of ornaments on a plain piece of paper with crayons," said the Joppatowne Elementary School third-grader. "I didn't know what the drawing was for, but I love ornaments. They are my favorite things about Christmas."
The 8-year-old forgot about her artwork after she was released when doctors found no problems but told her to return in a year for a checkup. Then, in late October, her father received a phone call saying that Nicole's design was one of eight winners in the hospital's 11th annual Miracle Tie Collection contest.
"I didn't know anything about a contest," said Raymond Praglowski. "So I was very surprised when they called."
The Miracle Tie designs are based on the artwork of pediatric patients at the hospital. Youngsters from all over the country who are admitted to the hospital are asked to create a holiday design.
This year's entries depicted Christmas gifts, fish, boats, seahorses, and snowmen. Once the winners were selected, they were sent to a professional designer, who created silk neckties inspired by the drawings.
Upon completion, the silk ties were unveiled at an annual fashion show. They are being sold for $60 at area Jos. A. Bank Clothiers stores. Proceeds from the sale of the neckties go to benefit research at the children's center.
"When she saw the tie, she was just glowing with excitement," Raymond Praglowski said of his daughter's reaction. "She went around autographing the ties for the people as they bought them" in Kenilworth Mall in Towson.
The recognition didn't stop there, said Brigid Carmichael, Joppatowne Elementary's school counselor. Faculty and staff members who had bought one of Nicole's ties wore them to a recent school assembly.
"The theme of the assembly was leadership," she said. "I told the students that the creativity, honesty and leadership that Nicole had shown during the last few months showed that she had the potential to be a great leader."
The students also recognized Nicole's achievement.
"When I came back to school, I wore my tie," she said. "First they asked me why I was wearing a tie, and when I told them they said "wow" and that it was really cool."
Chris Cook, the school's principal concurred.
"I like Nicole's creation. And I think she was brave and courageous to go through what she did after her accident, and at the same time be able to do something so creative," he said.
"We are all so proud of her. I'm glad she got the opportunity to share what makes her happy."