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Navajo Prep's Laila Charley recovering from brain injury after ATV accident near Shiprock

Quentin Jodie, Navajo Times

Navajo Prep’s Laila Charley spent hours this summer working on her highlight video, putting clips together in hopes of earning a basketball scholarship.

On one occasion, the Lady Eagles point guard stayed up all night to make sure her highlight reel included all the necessary information to help in her recruiting process.

Then on July 15, Charley’s life took a horrific turn when was involved in an all-terrain vehicle accident near her home in Shiprock.

The accident happened late that evening, while her parents, Michael and Lillie Charley, were still at work.

Navajo Prep's Laila Charley, seen here playing in the 3A girls basketball state championship game on Friday, March 13, 2020, in Albuquerque, is recovering from a brain injury she suffered in an all-terrain vehicle accident near her home in Shiprock on July 15.

“As parents we tell our kids to be careful over and over but sometimes kids think that nothing bad will happen to them,” Lillie Charley said, with her voice cracking. “I’m pretty sure that’s what my daughter thought. We told her to be careful but she would always tell us, ‘I know, I know.’ ”

On March 13, Laila Charley, 17, helped Navajo Prep capture its first state title since 2009. Prep went 28-2 this past season.

“She accomplished way more than I what I did in high school,” Michael Charley said. “I played for Newcomb (High) and I thought I did a lot on my high school team but she went far beyond what I’ve done.”

Michael said his daughter put in a lot of work during the summer, getting ready for her senior season.

“She was making herself stronger and better,” he said. “That was what she was focused on. When I would go out to the track to hit my golf balls she was out there running or doing all kinds of exercises to get faster. She did that all summer long.”

From what she’s gathered, Lillie said her daughter was driving around a corner with her little brother, Miles, sitting directly behind her, with neither rider wearing a helmet in an area covered with gravel.

And when they hit that corner, Laila flew off the ATV. Miles, 9, managed to stay on as he held onto the railings behind him, spraining his thumb.

As for Laila, she hit the ground pretty hard. After being transported to Northern Navajo Medical Center, she was immediately flown to the University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital in Albuquerque.

“Honestly, when I first heard what happened my first thought was she’s going to be OK,” Lillie Charley said. “But when the doctors told us her injuries were pretty serious and that she might not make it – it turned my world upside down.”

Laila fractured her temporal and occipital bones on the right side of her head. As a result, she suffered a subdural hematoma, epidural hematoma and a traumatic brain injury as the doctors at UNM performed emergency surgery to stop the bleeding.

With the extent of her daughter’s injuries, Lillie Charley reached out to her friends and family asking for prayers.

“She had a lot of swelling in her brain so I went to Facebook and I asked everyone to pray for her,” Lillie Charley said, trying to hold back tears. “Everyone was asking what we needed and I just told them to pray. I truly believe that is what gave my daughter the strength to get through this, especially the first couple of days after her surgery.”

Michael Charley said the outpouring of support was overwhelming.

“It was really good to hear them reaching out to us,” he said. “Personally, it really touched me. It helped me pull through the first week when I was crying nonstop, not knowing what was going to happen to my daughter. It’s hard to put into words on how much support we got from everybody.”

During Laila’s initial surgery, Lillie said they placed an external ventricle drain as a way to reduce the pressure in her brain.

EVD is a medical procedure designed to help drain cerebral spinal fluid and relieve intracranial pressure.

Laila Charley remains in the intensive care unit at UNM Children's Hospital.

Lillie Charley said Laila’s expected to undergo a few more surgeries, along with rehab in the coming weeks.

However, Lillie Charley said her daughter is showing some improvement, such as opening her eyes and moving her legs.

Lillie Charley also said she asked Laila to squeeze her hand, and she was able to do that. Lillie also said said Laila is also able to sit up for six minutes with some assistance.

“I feel like she wants to get out of bed… Her neurosurgeon is real surprised with her progress and he said she’s doing better than expected,” the Charley matriarch said.

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to pay for future, unforeseen medical expenses, roundtrips to the hospital, household bills and daily expenses. The family’s raised $5,960 of its $7,500 goal as of Thursday afternoon.

To donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/lailas-traumatic-head-injury-recovery?sharetype=teams&member=5153512&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=p_na%20share-sheet&rcid=db7ef888e9d8431cb5fecd90f1b740f6&fbclid=IwAR0IWZ7QBvQKxYJbRRBRu7kt9rNKu24zlLK8q89vrRMro-yduI7y80EdeQg.

Navajo Times Sports Editor Quentin Jodie can be reached at 928-871-1142 and at qjodie@navajotimes.com.

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