SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) -Trauma medical director Dr. Alan Brockhurst was working at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in 2017 when the circus accident happened.
"She had facial fractures. She is for sure lucky to be alive."
Nik Wallenda, his sister Lijana and others were practicing an eight-person pyramid for an upcoming show when suddenly performers lost their balance and tumbled more than 30-feet to the ground.
"Three of them came here as trauma alerts," said Dr. Brockhurst.
The worst of them was Lijana, who came in with life-threatening injuries, including a laceration of her liver, which is considered a life-threatening problem.
"She had multiple facial fractures, kind of the brunt of the energy struck the center of her face," the doctor explained.
She spent days inside the trauma unit.
Terry Troffer, Nik Wallenda's father, said, "I went over to the hospital and sat in the little family room and they said you can go back and see her. It was tough. She had blood coming out of her eyes, out of her ears, face was all smashed."
Delilah Wallenda, Lijana's mother said, "As a parent, seeing your child injured is even hard to describe. It tears your heart out you want to be their safety net don't want anything to happen to them."
The CAT scan showing the damage to Lijana’s face is startling.
"I broke a rib, punctured my right ear canal, broke clear through my left humerus, I broke my left calcaneus but the big one was every bone in my face," Lijana said.
"She went through a near-death experience. Seventy-three screws and plates," Nik added.
Dr. Brockhurst explained, "Most of her care involved being in the intensive care unit to keep a close eye on her vital signs and her lab work to make sure she's not bleeding internally."
Nik told crowds that were at his rehearsal that, statistically speaking, doctors said least two people should not have survived that fall. But miraculously, everyone did.
Even though Nik wasn't hurt badly, the incident caused him to be fearful when getting back on the wire a few months later at the Big Apple Circus.
"I shook for three weeks and told my wife I don't think I can walk the wire anymore, it was that bad. My head rigger said, 'What is wrong with you? Snap out of it.' Went back to RV, Lincoln Center, always spoke against not letting negativity, practice what you preached, prayer, three to four days later, rebuilt confidence. It just took him saying that to me," Nik said.
Now more than two years later Lijana is getting back on the wire with her brother.
"I'm just a little nervous because the wire moves more than anything I've ever been on," Lijana said.
Dr. Brockhurst said, “If you ask my opinion they’re both crazy and they know I’ve said that.”