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Leonia’s very own little warrior
A seven-year-old Holmes County girl is putting up the fight of her life after a fiery crash took the lives of her mother and sister and left Ayva Philips with third- and fourth-degree burns on 85 percent of her body.
Ayva was traveling to Bainbridge, Georgia on Oct. 25 this year with her mother, Danielle Alyssa Cross, 31, and sister, Isabella ‘Bella’ Ann Philips, 9, when tragedy struck. They were traveling through Augusta, Georgia when the car flipped, struck a tree, landed upside down and burst into flames. A passerby, who is still unknown, was able to pull Ayva from the burning vehicle ultimately saving her life.
From there, Ayva was airlifted to UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville but has since been transferred to Shriners Children’s Texas in Galveston, where she is expected to be in the intensive care unit for six months. Her doctors say she will spend at least the next year in the hospital.
Since her arrival in Galveston, Ayva has undergone nine surgeries for skin grafts and amputations of both her legs from the knee down as well as her right arm from above the elbow. Further amputation of her right leg above the knee may be necessary.
Due to the severity of her injuries, Ayva will face surgeries for the rest of her life along with check-ups at Shriners in Galveston. Because of her young age and years of growth left, skin grafts will need to be redone as her bones grow and affect her amputations.
Despite the pain and trauma caused by the horrific accident, Ayva has retained her loving and sometimes spicy demeanor, according to her father, Chris Philips.
“No matter what she is dealing with she still thinks of others,” Philips said. “She will look over and ask, ‘Daddy, are you okay?’ She is just still so full of love and is in good spirits despite her ordeal.”
Ayva was not a newcomer to hospital stays prior to the accident. She was hospitalized seven times before her fifth birthday due to pneumonia. Because of the damage caused to her lungs, Ayva has had to be placed on oxygen several times throughout this stay with additional complications caused by the accident.
While grieving the loss of 9-year-old Bella in the accident, Philips and Ashley Cureton, Ayva’s step-mother, remain vigilant at Ayva’s bedside daily. Cureton said they are grateful to Shriners and the healing they are providing the whole family.
“The entire team here is amazing, and we are blessed to have them working with us,” she said. “All of us see the psychiatric team each week and it helps us all deal with the enormity of the situation.”
Showing her fighting spirit, Ayva insists on still getting her education. While her doctors want her to focus on healing, she insists on learning. Ayva has a teacher who comes three days per week to give her lessons. Philips says it’s amazing to watch.
“When Ayva and her teacher get together, it is a sight to see,” he said. “They laugh and learn, and I have come to see that my girl is destined for greatness. God let her survive for a reason, and I cannot wait to see what that reason is.”
The family recently learned that Ayva is eligible to receive robotic prosthetics for each of her amputated limbs when the time comes as well as a college scholarship when she graduates from high school.
With Ayva in the hospital, Philips and Cureton are both unable to work and have been staying in a hotel near the hospital to be with Ayva at all times. This has caused a tremendous financial hardship for the family that will eventually need to relocate to Galveston to be close to Ayva’s doctors.
Friends and family have started fundraisers to help alleviate some of the financial worry so that the singular focus may be on Ayva’s recovery.
Those who would like to help Ayva’s family may donate to the Facebook fundraiser or on GoFundMe.