The Miracle of Annie Banannie

By Leslie Moore

Annie Nichols is a happy, bright four year old living in Murrells Inlet with her parents, Kelsey and Billy Nichols, and her almost two year old brother, also named Billy. Casual acquaintances would never notice the slight limp, or brace on her right leg, and would likely be shocked to know that four months ago, Annie very nearly lost her life.

We sat in Billy’s office while he shared Annie’s story. This young father adamantly believes that God sent several miracles to save his precious child, and repeatedly emphasized the power of prayers from people all around the world.

“The doctors said she could have fallen a hundred times with no ill effect, but this time was just the perfect storm,” Billy began, trying to control his tears. “It was Saturday, July 1st. I had just gotten home from the office and the kids were outside playing, a couple of our neighbors were there with their children – a typical summer Saturday afternoon. The little boys were playing with the hose and a tiny puddle of water got into the garage on the polished concrete. Annie started to run inside, slipped in the water and fell.”

Billy and Kelsey took Annie inside and put some ice on her head. A friend and neighbor, who is an RN, told the couple to keep a close eye on her and not let her go to sleep. “She cried, but it wasn’t the worst cry I’ve even heard,” Billy remembered, shaking his head. “Watching her closely, we kept icing her head – and in about 45 minutes she was ready to get up, saying she felt better.”

Billy was preparing to grill the family dinner and took Annie outside with him while Kelsey put little Billy down for the night. Suddenly, with little warning, Annie took a dramatic turn for the worse, screaming, crying and rapidly becoming unresponsive. Kelsey and Billy rushed her to the emergency department at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital in Murrells Inlet. “I dropped Kelsey and Annie off by the ER door, and by the time I parked my car and walked into the hospital, they already had taken her back,” Billy said. “Everyone at Tidelands was amazing – within a very short time, we were told Annie had a brain bleed and needed to be airlifted to MUSC.” In the short space of only 90 minutes, the lives of the Nichols family changed forever.

Kelsey had already texted extended family and, in shock, Billy called his pastor, Mike Alexander, at Belin United Methodist Church, asking him to pray. “He told me he was coming – and got there in just a few minutes.” Mike, Billy and Kelsey prayed and waited. “They wouldn’t allow us to stay with her while she was intubated – that was really hard. Then, we asked if Kelsey could ride with Annie on the helicopter, and they again said no.”

Kelsey and Billy did get to see Annie before she boarded the helicopter. And, Billy was able to convince the pilot to allow Kelsey to accompany her daughter with the understanding that she had to control her emotions. “It was really tough seeing Annie with wires and tubes everywhere, but Kelsey managed to pull herself together and got on board with Annie.”

“While we were waiting, we were introduced to the doctors at MUSC through a new technology called telemedicine,” Billy began. “Because Tidelands is connected with MUSC through telemedicine, the doctors at MUSC had already seen her tests and even looked into her pupils before the helicopter arrived.” Billy went on to tell me, “Only four community hospitals in South Carolina have telemedicine tied with MUSC. We want to spread the word. If there was telemedicine in every hospital, we could save so many more lives.”Billy’s father drove him to Charleston to meet Kelsey and Annie. “I remember talking with my dad and saying I hoped this wouldn’t change Annie’s personality – she’s such a spunky, full of life little girl.”While on the road, Billy received a call from Kelsey. “Because of the telemedicine connection, the surgeons met Annie at the helicopter and took her directly into surgery, saving valuable time.” But they had delivered devastating news to Kelsey – telling her that there was no guarantee her daughter would survive the surgery. “Then I realized the only thing that mattered was keeping Annie alive.”

There were many small miracles that night, all sent to save one little girl. The helicopter was originally scheduled to transport another patient, but was cancelled at the last minute. During the flight, the pilot pointed out a huge storm to Kelsey and told her it was completely stalled and should have been directly in their path. These are only two of a series of signs that kept hope alive at a time when all seemed lost.

The surgery went well, the clot was removed in less than four minutes, but Annie was still not out of the woods. She was alive, but with no guarantee of her mental state. “We didn’t sleep that night,” said Billy. “The next morning, Annie had a CAT scan, and the doctors saw brain activity. We also learned that Annie had suffered a small stroke, but were told it was the ‘best’ place to have one.”Continued on page 24

The second night, Billy and Kelsey felt a little more optimistic. At the insistence of Annie’s nurses, they tried to get some sleep. “At three in the morning we woke up to the nurses cheering! Annie had given them a thumbs up with her left hand.” This emotional moment was the beginning of Annie’s recovery.

Slowly, Annie began to improve. On July 4th, she spoke for the first time, telling her parents she had to go to the bathroom. “I’m not a big social media fan,” Billy told me. “But I saw an entirely different side of it through this ordeal. We heard from people we hadn’t seen in years, and there were prayers being sent from all over the world.”

After ten days, Annie was discharged from MUSC to Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte for therapy. She had little use of her right side and received therapy six days a week for four hours a day. “The first week was hard, but then things started opening up,” remembered Billy, a look of intense gratitude on his face. Kelsey was able to stay with Annie for the 24 days of intense therapy, while Billy traveled back and forth, working some and spending time with his son who was being cared for by his grandmother.

Annie left Levine walking with assistance from her mom and dad. Today, four months later, she wears a brace on her leg and is in outpatient therapy. “Her prognosis is great. She’s come back at least 90%; that last 10% takes longer, but there’s no reason she won’t get to 100%.”

The Nichols knew they had to figure out a way to give back for the miracle of their daughter’s recovery. After a lot of research and prayer, Kelsey and Billy have set up the Annie Banannie Foundation to fund research on pediatric traumatic brain injury. Kelsey told me the fund will be managed by MUSC and two doctors will be in charge of the research. “I want to raise a million dollars in five years,” Kelsey told me with conviction.

This brave young couple will never be the same people that they were before the accident. They are grateful for every day, every minute, with those they love. “We are so grateful to the wonderful doctors and nurses, to Tidelands, to MUSC, to everyone who helped save our precious Annie.”

The first fundraiser for the Annie Banannie Foundation will be held on November 18th at Sunnyside Plantation in Murrells Inlet. Tru Sol has donated their time and talent and there will be a silent auction, along with yummy food and drinks. For more info, or to buy tickets, visit Team AnnieBanannie on Facebook or email teamannieBanannie@gmail.com.

About this writer

  • Leslie Moore

    Leslie Moore

    Leslie Moore is the editor for Strand Media Group. A 25 year resident of Pawleys Island, she is blessed with a life filled with the love of family and friends and satisfying work to do every day.

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