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4-year-old Devils Lake boy recovers after accidental shooting

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. - Laine Nicholls darts from toy to toy, first racing his plastic cars down a ramp and then pushing a green, four-wheel-drive tractor across the living room carpet before he revs up his remote-control monster truck.

Beth Nicholls, like many other moms of 4-year-olds, is amazed at her child's perpetual motion. But unlike some, she also is grateful for every minute of it.

Just six months ago, Laine was unable to walk, let alone run, as the result of being shot in the hip in a gun accident in the family's home near Devils Lake on Sept. 26, 2010. Nicholls, a horsewoman, had left the house a short time before to pick up her barrel-racing horses for a show when she got a call from stepson Tanner, 14.

"I could hear Laine screaming. I knew something was wrong," Nicholls said. When she asked Tanner what had happened, he told her that the 12-gauge shotgun that was propped up in a corner of the house had tipped over and discharged.

When Nicholls arrived home a few minutes later, she saw Laine lying on the living room floor, a towel pressed to his right hip. The shot tore open the muscle and left a large indentation. Tanner had called the ambulance before he called Nicholls, and shortly after she got home, it arrived.


Nicholls and her husband, Jerem, who had been outside doing chores when the accident happened, headed to the emergency room at Mercy Hospital, where emergency personnel had taken Laine. Mercy Hospital emergency staff called Sanford Health Medical Center and activated Sanford LifeFlight, which flew Laine to Fargo, where medical staff examined him, performed surgery to remove the shotgun pellet and cleaned the wound.

Within a week, Laine was released from Sanford Children's Hospital, began to walk again and re­turned home to Devils Lake. For two months, he had a wound vac, a portable machine that provides suction to help the wound heal, attached to his hip. His parents also made a twice-weekly 360-mile round-trip to Sanford Children's Hospital with him to have the wound cleaned and the dressing changed.

Throughout the two months of healing, Laine never complained about the hospital trips, Nicholls said. Instead, he looked forward to their routine at the children's hospital, which included pulling a little red wagon into surgery, receiving nitrous oxide so he would fall asleep, and then eating juice and graham crackers when he woke up.

"He was always fine. The playroom was so fun. The nurses were so good," Nicholls said.

Miracle child

In October 2010, Sanford Children's Hospital named Laine its 2011 Miracle Network Hospitals Champion. This October, Laine and his family will join other Miracle Network Hospitals Champions from across the United States in Disney World, where they will spend several days before flying to Washington D.C.

The accident has brought the Nicholls family closer together, Nicholls said.

"I think it gives us a greater appreciation of how quickly things can happen and change your life."

Though it's difficult to talk about Laine's accident, Nicholls believes it's important that she tell his story. She hopes that hearing it may prevent something similar from happening to another child.