Marti Helps Promote Children’s Hospital Expansion

A Florida girl who fell 100 feet from a Wisconsin amusement park ride has returned to the state for the first time since the accident, walking up to a news conference at a Madison hospital under her own power.

Teagan Marti, of Parkland, Fla., was 12 years old when she fell from the Terminal Velocity ride at Extreme World in Lake Delton in July 2010. She was airlifted to American Family Children’s Hospital with a fractured spine and pelvis. No one was sure if she would ever walk again.

On Monday, Marti returned to the hospital for the first time since the fall to promote an expansion project at the facility. Hospital staff and reporters alike watched in awe she strode through the lobby with a walker.

“I’m certain that my child would not be alive if she had not been able to come to this phenomenal facility,” said Teagan’s mother, Julie, at a news conference inside the American Family Children’s Hospital.

Julie Marti said it’s hard to think back to the day her daughter nearly died.

Investigators later determined the ride operator did not follow proper procedures and did not put the net in place to catch the girl.

“Initially, we didn’t know if she was going to make it at all,” Julie Marti said.

Teagan, now 14, was immediately brought to American Family Children’s Hospital. Her recovery has defied all odds.

“Cognitively, she is superior. She has absolutely no brain damage,” Julie Marti said. “She’s keeping up with her classes online, and I’m hoping that she’ll graduate on time.”

Julie Marti said she hopes her daughter will be able to go to public school in the fall.

Donna Katen-Bahensky, CEO of the American Family Children’s Hospital, said that Teagan Marti’s story shows why a facility like the American Family Children’s Hospital is so important.

“It is becoming more difficult to ensure that we have a bed available and are able to take care of patients in a timely fashion, so that they get the care that is needed,” Katen-Bahensky said.

On Monday, UW Hospital announced a 10-year, $32 million fundraising campaign to, among many things, add 26 more critical care beds to the American Family Children’s Hospital, construct new operating rooms and add imaging and heart services. About $16.4 million will come from private donations.

Julie Marti said her daughter’s life is proof that it’s an investment the community needs to make.

“What if the day this happened to Teagan, there were no beds?” Julie Marti said. “What do you do? Where do you go? It is so important, I think, that this hospital grows and expands, and that’s a lot of why we’re here.”

Already, $6.5 million in private funds has been raised for the project, and about $10 million more is needed.

Hospital officials said they will use space that has already been shelled out and is ready for construction. They said they anticipated the need to expand — just not this quickly.

Construction is expected to start sometime later this year.