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The Harris Family bought their "forever home" in Eatonville just last year. Now, they're facing the challenge of making it safe for their daughter following a head-on car crash New Year's Day. (Harris family photo)

Family and friends preparing to 'bring McKenzie home'

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Find out what McKenzie Harris needs with the "Bring McKenzie Home Committee"

Healing from the crash is just the first step. A Pierce County family is not only struggling with life-changing wounds, but with how they can bring their badly injured daughter home from the hospital.

Doug Harris says he and his wife had planned a rare date night on New Year's Eve. Rather than risk picking up their son and daughter late that night, they thought it would be safer to wait until the next morning.

Unfortunately, it was a decision that would horribly alter the rest of their lives.

A man suffering a medical emergency crossed the center line of State Route 7 in Eatonville on New Year's Day. The pickup hit the Harris family's truck head-on.

"I don't know how long we were sitting there screaming," Doug remembers. "Next thing I know...I started handing my kids out."

His 3-year-old son Wyatt was alert and sitting up. His 7-year-old daughter was much more seriously hurt. She was unconscious and wasn't breathing.

Doug's two nieces were also in the truck. They suffered some trauma and a few broken bones, but both have since made a full recovery.

Doug's wife, Sara, suffered a lumbar displacement, liver and spleen lacerations, rib fractures, and other injuries. It could be years before she recovers.

Both Sara and McKenzie were unconscious when they arrived at Tacoma General Hospital. Doctors thought McKenzie was brain dead, but Sara didn't believe it.

"And then both of us opened our eyes on the fifth of January. We were at the same place together, and then we were just ready to come back," says Sara.

Both Sara and Doug are now trying to care for their son and daughter from wheelchairs.

McKenzie is still confined to a hospital bed. She depends on a ventilator to help her breathe and hospital staff to help her move and eat.

Sara says McKenzie's natural personality may be her best asset in this fight for her life.

"She's a firecracker," Sara laughs. "She's funny, she's loving, she's a diva. If it's pink and sparkly, she's all over it. But, then she'll get on the quad and beat the boys in a mud race. She's just wonderful."

McKenzie's voice is little more than a whisper, but her vibrant personality is evident from the moment you walk into her room. She uses her dynamic facial expressions to help her communicate.

McKenzie has a special love for Elsa from the Disney movie Frozen. Sara says the song "Let It Go" helps her daughter through her many therapies and procedures.

The walls of her hospital room are plastered with pictures, notes and posters made by family, friends and classmates.

McKenzie's progress has been so good, Doug and Sara have recently been told she might be able to come home as soon as April. Unfortunately, that leaves them with a new hurdle. They have to make sure their home is ready for her.

"It's a little bit more than just tossing a ramp into the house at this point," says family friend Katrina Flowers. "This is their forever home, but it needs some work now to make McKenzie safe and comfortable."

Flowers has stepped in to lead the "Bring McKenzie Home Committee." She says they have about ten people on the committee so far, including family, friends, and even a few people who know a little about construction.

"We think that an addition will probably need to be placed on the house so McKenzie has her own space and her own bathroom that a wheelchair can get into," says Flowers.

Altogether, they think the work could cost as much as a $100,000 - much more than this young family of four can afford, especially when you add it to all of their medical bills.

Right now, Doug and Sara can't focus on that. They've got a little girl who needs all the attention they can give her.

"She's amazing. She makes different progress every day," Sara says. "She's just so strong and brave."

Kim Shepard, KIRO Radio Reporter
Kim Shepard is a news anchor and reporter for KIRO Radio and the office optimist. She's energetic, quick to laugh and has a positive outlook on life.
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