A look at Molly
- In the first installment of a two-part series, the Steamboat Pilot & Today takes a look at what happened to Molly Look of North Routt on Jan. 17, 2007 - when Molly, then 3, walked outside of her family's house in sub-zero temperatures to visit her pet bunny.
- Next Sunday, the Pilot & Today will tell the story of Molly's recovery.
Steamboat Springs With two turkeys, four dogs, 11 puppies, five cats, six kittens and eight hermit crabs, the Look household can be a busy place.
"We're downsizing," says Yvette Look, the mother of four children, three of whom live at the Look home near Fly Gulch in the Elk River Valley.
There is also Boy the bunny, who 4-year-old Molly holds on a June afternoon while a turkey gobbles behind her in the family's barn.
On Jan. 17, 2007, Molly took an early-morning trip outside the house to visit Boy.
The visit turned into a life-threatening situation when Molly found herself along a county road, her legs numb from sub-zero temperatures.
Two rosy dots
When Kathleen Fitzsimmons drove past a young girl wearing just a shirt sitting on a snowbank along Routt County Road 52E, the child was beyond pain. She wasn't crying.
"This really does not look right at all," Fitzsimmons said earlier this month, recollecting that morning more than a year ago.
Fitzsimmons was running late for work because the pipes in her home had frozen over night.
"Where is everyone? Where's her mom? Where's the car?" she thought at first.
She picked up the child, who was about 1/4 mile away from the nearest house, and looked her over. The girl's hands were swollen and the only colors in her face were two rosy dots on her cheeks.
"I thought she was an abuse case, that someone had abandoned her," Fitzsimmons said. "I didn't know what to think. It went from innocently going to work, to major trauma."
Holding the child in her arms, Fitzsimmons began driving the 10 miles south toward Steamboat Springs.
"Police or hospital?" Fitzsimmons asked herself. "I didn't know. I was confused."
The girl's body was stiff. She was blinking but silent.
Within the first mile of the drive, the girl uttered "mommy" twice and again went silent.
"I just gave her lots of love and attention and told her everything was going to be all right," said Fitzsimmons, who never had children of her own.
Halfway to Steamboat Springs, the girl drew her legs and arms into a fetal position and wedged her feet between Fitzsimmons' thighs. Fitzsimmons considered it a good sign. She called 911 and told them she was bringing the girl to the hospital.
Fitzsimmons carried the girl into the emergency room at Yampa Valley Medical Center and told staff she had found the child on the side of the road.
"Their jaws dropped," Fitzsimmons said.
Fitzsimmons wrapped the girl in warm blankets, and they waited a couple of minutes in admission before the girl was taken in back for treatment.
About 10 minutes later, Fitzsimmons learned the parents of the girl had been found. It appeared 3-year-old Molly Look had chosen the coldest day of the winter to wander away from home.
"I was still under the impression this was an abuse case," Fitzsimmons said. "It was a hard sell. I was just like 'how does this happen?' I couldn't swallow it."
Del Look woke up early that morning and made his three girls a big breakfast while Molly's mother, Yvette, was still in bed sick.
Before leaving to take Lexy and Kady to school in Steamboat, Del told Molly to go see mom.
Pulling out of the driveway, Del noticed the thermometer on his truck read 28 degrees below zero. He explained to the girls how dangerously cold it was, "and if they got caught up in something like this, they would freeze to death."
When Yvette woke up, she went to brush her teeth and started calling for Molly. Hide and seek was a popular game with Molly, and Yvette did an extensive search of the house before trying to call Del.
"I said 'I don't have her,'" Del said. "It was just a panic from then on."
Yvette enlisted the help of her parents as well as one of the Look's dogs.
"I just opened the door and said 'Moses, find Molly.'"
Moses went to the barn and came out carrying one of Molly's pink cowboy boots in his mouth.
Del returned to the house and searched the area on a snowmobile.
Yvette headed down the driveway a few hundred yards. When Yvette's parents arrived, Yvette was holding Molly's ripped tights in her hand. She had found them on a barbed-wire fence.
A neighbor, Vicky Jones, called the Routt County Sheriff's office for help and was told a little girl had been found and taken to the hospital.
"Del just fell into a snowbank crying," when he heard Molly had been found, recalled Yvette's mother, Bonnie Printy.
A Routt County Sheriff's deputy arrived at the house, and Yvette rode with the deputy to the hospital.
"I was bawling, sobbing in the car," Yvette said.
She knew only that Molly was alive and doctors were working on her.
The emergency room staff had no idea what had happened to Molly before she arrived at the hospital.
They also did not know her identity, even though some of the nurses would likely have recognized Molly - Yvette once worked at the hospital - had Molly not chopped off her hair in the fall to look like Tinker Bell.
She clearly was cold and had obvious frostbite on her fingers and toes.
"We had to warm her, and that was the core issue," said Dr. David Cionni.
They used warming blankets and fed Molly warm air. A needle put into her tibia supplied warm fluids.
For the first 30 minutes, Molly did not make any noise. She was awake and occasionally would make eye contact. Her body temperature was 81 degrees.
"I've never seen someone that cold survive," said Cionni, who has been an emergency medicine physician at YVMC for 15 years. "I've never seen someone that cold."
Molly's condition quickly improved.
After talking to police to explain the situation, the first thing Yvette heard when she arrived at the hospital was Molly crying.
"You don't like to hear your kids screaming, but it was like music to my ears just to hear that she's alive, kicking and screaming and she had fight in her," Yvette said.
"I want to go home," Molly told her mother.
Bonnie Printy sat beside Molly and told her "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," the children's story, to comfort her and divert her attention.
"Molly would respond and say part of the story," Yvette said.
Once Molly's body temperature increased, the concern shifted to the frostbite. Her hands and feet were a bluish red and had started to swell. Doctors decided to airlift Molly to The Children's Hospital in Denver for treatment.
The next 12 days at Children's were a waiting game. Del and Yvette would take turns sleeping next to Molly in her hospital bed, not knowing what parts of her hands and toes would survive. Blisters grew 1 to 2 inches high, and the risk of infection was severe.
"Never in my worst nightmare did I think frostbite was that bad," Del said. "I think the worst part was watching her go through the pain."
'I almost died'
While at Children's, Molly shared some of the details of that morning with her mother her grandmother Printy, who she called Mema.
Molly walked out the back door of the house, headed for the barn to see Boy.
Molly had trouble getting the pen's door open and got cold, so she took off her boots and put her feet under some hay. Then she got hungry and decided she would walk to her grandmother's house for a sugar cookie - more than a mile down the county road.
"Mema, I was on my way to your house," Molly said. "I needed a bandage and cookies."
Her legs stopped working after walking about a quarter mile.
"I was so mad because I just wanted to go to (Grandma's), and I didn't want to die," Molly said to her mother. "I almost died."
"To hear those words come out of that kid's mouth, it just shakes you to the core," Yvette said.