It's been nearly a year since 12-year-old Elizabeth Gilreath's scalp was ripped from her head when her hair got caught on a carnival ride — but the girl known affectionately as Lulu says she refuses to dwell on her accident.
"My scars don't define me. Nobody's scars should define them," she said.
Lulu, told NBC affiliate WOWT 6 News Thursday that she had been excited to take her first-ever carnival ride, but almost as soon as the ride started, she slumped down in her chair.
Her long red hair got caught in the machinery of the King's Crown ride at a local carnival in Omaha, Nebraska. The injuries almost removed her entire scalp and caused damage to both of her eyes, according to WOWT.
She said the next thing she remembered was waking up in the hospital with her mother.
"I told her, 'I feel like my head was smushed, Mom.' And she told me what happened," Lulu told WOWT.
After the accident, she was rushed to the hospital in critical condition and remained sedated while doctors worked to save her life.
Since then, Lulu has had two head surgeries, three skin grafts, one eye surgery and 28 blood transfusions, according to WOWT. Her mother, Virginia Cooksey, described Lulu as "brave" and said she's managed to smile despite her horrific injuries.
As word of the accident spread on social media, Cooksey began posting updates on Lulu's condition including a photo of Lulu smiling when she saw her reflection for the first time after the accident.
Today, Lulu is in the sixth grade and said she's happy her curly red hair is growing back and is long enough to put in a ponytail.
"I loved my hair. It was extremely rare," she said.
While Lulu has overcome much in the past 12 months, she insists she will never ride another carnival ride.
Cooksey told WOWT that she has lawsuits pending, one against the company that makes the King's Crown ride and another against the State of Nebraska for negligence.