Cheeky toddler’s long road back from the brink
TO LOOK at Lara Whitaker, you wouldn't think the near-four-year-old almost lost her life a year ago.
The only telltale signs of her freak accident are a scar on hear head, her uneven blonde locks and a pandora bracelet with a bead for each operation she had to have.
The Kensington Grove girl was at the Redcliffe Paceway in March last year when the starting boom failed to retract.
Lara, who was being held by her father and harness racing driver Gary Whitaker, took the brunt of the blow when the pacing car's boom struck.
She was ripped out of Gary's arms, and left laying motionless on the ground.
Gary had also been struck, along with their almost one-year-old son Josh.
Lara was rushed to the Queensland Children's Hospital and her parents were told it would be a miracle if she survived.
Josh suffered a fracture to the skull and bruising on the brain, while Gary was knocked unconscious and had a 20cm cut.
Lara has since undergone four major surgeries, including a craniotomy, facial reconstruction and eye repair, as well as a number of minor operations.
Fifteen months on, she tells her mum she doesn't remember the accident.
Her mum Joedy describes her daughter as a "sassy four-year-old".
"She doesn't know anything about the accident, the only thing she'll talk about is hospital," Joedy said.
"She's at the age where she won't remember it."
Life for Lara and Josh will be a string of tests and assessments as they develop.
When Lara reaches her teenage years, she will have the option to undergo a second facial reconstruction surgery if she wants to.
"If you don't know her, you wouldn't be able to tell," Joedy said.
"She's got a little scar that's quite prominent from her last surgery, and her uneven hair."
Despite everything she has been through, Lara's bubbly and happy personality continues to shine.
"You take her to IGA or the supermarkets and she wants to say hello to everyone and have a chat; that hasn't changed," Joedy said.
"She's still very much a social little bean, even before the accident she was up for a chat with anyone.
"She has always been a very empathetic and caring kid, she's still very much like that."
Next year, Lara will start kindy, and Joedy says her daughter is ready to go to school.
"She says 'mum pack my bags so I can go to school'," Joedy said.
The Whitakers, once regular visitors to the track, have not returned to racing since the incident.
They are giving their one horse a break, while the youngsters develop in the paddock.
"We're enjoying the break, we were both really struggling with it mentally," Joedy said.
"Gary hasn't returned to driving at all."