Doctor says girl's age may help her recover from head injury

11-year-old fell off horse Sunday, hit head

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three days after an 11-year-old girl fell off a horse and hit her head on the Westside, her future is still uncertain.

Natasha Holt, the daughter of Jacksonville city councilman Ray Holt, was injured while riding with her family and friends Sunday. She remains in the hospital with a head injury.

Doctors say if there is anything positive about all this, it's Natasha's age, because being so young may help her recover.

"Traumatic brain injuries are at the very least very dangerous," said Dr. Ravi Yarlagadda, a neurologist at St. Vincent's Medical Center.

He's not treating the girl but did give some insight into her kind of injury. He said it will be an uphill battle, and brain injuries are always so tough to treat. But the fact that she's young may be a positive thing.

"Age seems to be on her side, because the risk of long-term damage in terms of the immediate outcome standpoint seems to be always worse as we get older," Yarlagadda said.

According to police, Natasha fell off the horse and hit her head on a tree. People at the scene did CPR to revive her, and a helicopter flew her to the hospital.

Yarlagadda said that was a crucial time for the girl's survival, and the sooner patients like her get to the hospital, the better off they'll be.

If she does survive, she could still face a lifetime of problems, ranging from mental disabilities to physical weakness to chronic pain. But there is always hope she can make a full recovery.

Many doctors say the first few days will tell a lot about the girl's future. Yarlagadda said that's true, but even then, head injuries are always changing and unpredictable.

"It keeps changing from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, and there's no way to predict because of that what could be an outcome, even within those 72 hours," he said.

Natasha remains at Wolfson Children's Hospital in critical condition. Her family and friends say there are a lot of people supporting her and praying she makes a full recovery.

"Tasha is hanging in there," Nanette Holt, Natasha's mother, said in a statement. "The family appreciates all the outpouring of love and concern. What we need is continued prayer. There is still some uncertainty but there is much hope."