For the first time, Jacksonville City Councilman Ray Holt and his wife, Nanette, are talking about the accident that nearly killed their 11-year-old daughter. Natasha was sitting on a horse September 22 when it spooked and took off. The horse had no saddle, Natasha fell off and hit the right side of her head on a tree.
It happened on the Westside after the family had spent the day riding horses. The Holt's are avid riders and own three horses. Natasha's mother says her daughter's last memory was asking for someone to pass her, her helmet. She was not wearing it when she hit her head.
"The horse turned left and she fell right," said her father. When Councilman Holt saw his daughter fall, he ran to help her.
"She was lying still and I didn't feel any breath," he explained.
"I was a quarter of a mile down the road and you said, 'You got to come back, Tasha's been hurt.' I said is she going to be okay and you said, 'I don't know,'" said Nanette Holt, recounting what her husband told her over the phone right after their sixth-grader fell.
The Holt's says thankfully a bystander had just been certified two weeks earlier in CPR and was able to start compressions to get Natasha's heart beating again. She was airlifted to UF Health and then transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Wolfson Children's hospital.
"She had fractures of the bone here, she had blood here, she had a fracture here and back here a fracture of her skull," Nanette explained, pointing to her head as she recalls the severity of her daughter's head injuries.
They say doctors could not tell them if Natasha would even recover, and if she did, what kind of permanent damage she may have to her brain.
"You're just watching a monitor that's telling you whether she's got a chance to survive or not," said Nanette. She refers to a machine that was measuring brain pressure in her daughter's skull while in ICU.
Her husband added, "Whenever it [the pressure number] would get to 20, I'd step out in the hallway and ask [the nurses], 'Is anyone paying attention to this?' They would say, yeah, we are."
The Holt's say doctors had told them, if the pressure gets too high, their daughter would not survive. They say there were times when the number would spike to 50.
"We had a lot of doctors come to us and say to us, we hope you believe in the power of prayer," said Nanette.
The Holt's turned to their church family and to Facebook to ask for prayers, which they say is the reason their daughter recovered. As Natasha's pressure dropped steadily, at one point, her condition turned for the worse. Her mother says Natasha got an infection and became very sick.
"Her blood pressure dropped to 70/20 and at one point she had a fever of 109," she said.
Nanette says Wolfson Children's hospital brought in the top infectious disease doctors in the country to help figure out which antibiotics to use to treat their daughter's blood infection. She says," They had to be brilliant, and they were."
After four or five days in a medically induced coma, doctors removed Natasha from a ventilator that was breathing for her.
"We had to see if she could do that, it's a scary moment. They have to allow her to start breathing on her own and you just kind of hope that's going to happen," said Ray Holt.
Natasha was able to breathe on her own. Her mother says, Natasha started to whisper, "I thought I was at a horse show? Where are we? What happened? I told her, she had come off a horse and she said,"why didn't my helmet protect me?" You didn't have one on," Nanette recalled telling her daughter.
"We handed her the white board and she wrote, "I love you" and handed it to us and that's when we knew that's my girl," Nanette explained tearfully. "That's the one that was there with us on Saturday," she said describing her daughter's ability to speak and understand.
They say they knew that was a huge step in knowing if their daughter had any permanent brain damage.