The 5-year-old girl with the brown curly hair wants to be a cheerleader or baseball player when she grows up.
That Marissa Carbajal has a future has a lot to do with the quick action of her mother and three Anaheim Police officers following a grisly accident May 30 that nearly killed her.
Just before 8 p.m. that Friday following a dinner of chicken and rice at a friend’s home, Marissa darted out of a bedroom in a game of tag with a younger companion.
From the bedroom, her mother heard the nightmarish sound of glass shattering and her only child’s screams.
Marissa, of Garden Grove, accidentally had run through a sliding glass door leading from the kitchen to the patio of the two-bedroom apartment in Anaheim.
A male adult in the apartment plucked Marissa from the glass in which she had became embedded.
Her mother, Vanessa Ruvalcaba, dragged Marissa onto the living room carpet.
One dagger-like shard of glass had completely severed the femoral artery in Marissa’s left leg, sending blood gushing out in a steady spray.
Marissa rapidly was bleeding out.
Within minutes, without treatment, she would be dead.
Vanessa had the presence of mind to grab a red towel that turned an even deeper crimson as she used it to apply pressure to the worst gash on Marissa’s tiny body. She suffered other cuts on her legs, left hand and face.
“Don’t fall asleep!” she implored her daughter. “Stay awake!”
Someone called 911.
Within about 90 seconds, Anaheim PD Patrol Officer Ken Johnson was on the scene.
With paramedics rolling to the apartment, Johnson took over applying pressure to slow the bleeding from Marissa’s femoral artery, the main arterial supply to the lower limb.
The gash started at the top of Marissa’s inner left thigh and snaked down to her knee.
Pools of bloods spread on the brown carpet.
Johnson, soon joined by Patrol Officers Ted Petropulos and Jose Duran, successfully kept Marissa conscious before paramedics took over and whisked her to UCI Medical Center in Orange.
There was so much blood that Vanessa says she almost stuck to the carpet when she got up to accompany her daughter to the hospital.
“I don’t know how I did it,” Vanessa says of staying relatively calm to help her daughter.
Initially, at the hospital, things looked grim.
Vanessa, a 25-year-old single mother, at first wasn’t clear her daughter would even survive.
Then, doctors told her Marissa’s left leg may need to be amputated.
Thankfully, following a blood transfusion and two surgeries, doctors were able to save her leg.
Thursday, at Anaheim PD headquarters during an evening shift briefing, Anaheim Chief of Police Raul Quezada praised the “amazing” work of Vanessa Ruvalcaba and Officers Johnson, Petropulos and Duran.
“It was a group effort,” Johnson told the room full of cops. “It wasn’t just us. It was a real team effort.”
Marissa and Quezada exchanged a high-five and officers hugged and greeted her. Her mother teared up when she thanked the three officers.
Marissa gave a hand-written thank you note to the officers.
After the accident, Marissa was in the hospital for a week, and then used a wheelchair, then a walker.
She then started to walk on her own and recently has started running, although she has a limp and, every night, needs to elevate her left leg and sleep with a compression stocking.
And she’s not of the woods yet, says her mother and an attorney, Edward Flores, who is filing a lawsuit on behalf of Marissa and her family against the owners of the apartment complex for having dated, thin, non-tempered sliding-glass doors instead of modern tempered glass that does not shatter into dagger-like shards.
“This was a life-changing injury,” said Flores, who said Marissa has endured numerous medical procedures and physical therapy, and faces a lifetime of medication to prevent blood clotting, among other medical issues.
To take care of her daughter, Vanessa Ruvalcaba had to quit her job as a receptionist at a veterinarian’s office.
For now, she’s just grateful to have an active, happy daughter — one who proudly showed off her scars to Behind the Badge after scarfing down, in the briefing room, a dinner of cheese pizza and Rice Krispy treats.
“I feel so grateful she made it,” Vanessa said.