A new mom was left hospitalized after teens targeted her in what authorities are calling a "social media trend."
On Sunday, March 26, Lana Clay-Monaghan, 35, was enjoying a rare moment to herself in the aisle of a Target three miles way from her home in Tustin, California. After giving birth to twin boys eight months ago, she says a quick trip to her favorite store felt like "going on vacation."
"I was excited because summer is coming and I get to buy everything in twos," Clay-Monaghan tells TODAY.com. "So I was super focused."
While scanning baby soap and checking for toxicity levels to assuage her new-mom anxiety, Clay-Monaghan says she "felt this thing come over me."
"Instantly it was dark," she says. "I started screaming, but it was really close to my face so I couldn't really catch my breath. I couldn't get it off."
Clay-Monaghan says she was so "abruptly frightened" and "caught off guard," she started waving her arms in an attempt to free herself from what authorities later identified as a "bucket."
"I got it off and I looked over my shoulder. It was a couple of guys. They had their phones out and they were taping me and they were laughing," the new mom says. "I tried to say something but nothing came out."
Clay-Monaghan says she again tried to say, "Help me, I have epilepsy" but couldn't. Instead, she says she "went down and smashed my head into the ground."
In a press release posted to Facebook, the Tustin Police Department said "four male juveniles entered Target" at approximately 2:45 p.m., walking around before "one of them picked up a bucket and placed it over the head of an adult female shopper."
"As a result of the incident, the female shopper likely fainted and was transported to a local hospital in stable condition and a police report was taken," the statement said. "It is likely the juveniles were attempting to replicate the current social media trend where they place a bucket on a stranger’s head and film their reaction. There is no current threat to the community."
Clay-Monaghan says she lost consciousness and only regained it "slightly in the ambulance where they were asking me questions."
"I was really disoriented and so I didn't really get it together until I was in this trauma hospital," Clay-Monaghan says. "I thought to myself: 'It's my turn.' I thought I was in a shooting, because the last thing I remembered was being in a public place.
"When I woke up, they told me I'm an assault victim," she adds. "My clothes were cut off."
The new mom shares that she's a child cancer survivor — at 3, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a blood and bone marrow cancer that affects the white blood cells. Though she's been in full remission for over 20 years, Clay-Monaghan has long-term comorbidities linked to her cancer, including epilepsy.
"One of the ironies in all of this is that when I was transferred to a hospital after the incident ... it was the same hospital where I was treated for cancer," Clay-Monaghan adds.
Bloodwork indicated that Clay-Monaghan had an "acute heart issue" she says, which she was told likely caused her to faint after the alleged assault.
"The physician distinctively said, 'Once you hit your head on the ground, you probably did seize,'' she says "But what took you down? You probably fainted."
The Tustin Police Department is continuing to investigate the matter and asking those with information to contact the authorities. So far, no one has been arrested in connection with the alleged assault.
In a written statement provided to TODAY.com, a Target spokesperson says "the safety of our guests and team members is Target’s top priority."
"Our hearts go out to the victim of this incident, and we appreciate the efforts of our team members who provided immediate assistance," the spokesperson said. "We take any form of harassment seriously and are working closely with the Tustin Police Department as they investigate."
Clay-Monaghan says she spent a total of five hours in the hospital before going back home to her family — an emotional reunion for her and her husband.
"It was so sad to see his face," Clay-Monaghan says. "Hitting your head on the ground, people don't necessarily wake up from that. He was consumed with fear."
The new mom shares that she and her husband struggled with infertility for five years, eventually conceiving their twin boys via medical intervention. Now, she shudders to think at what would have happened if her sons were with her.
"That sense of not being able to have security has just really been difficult," she adds. "It was very overwhelming to see my kids again."
The new mom says she's "not moving on until someone comes forth and is held accountable," adding that she wants "repercussions" for the people responsible.
She also hopes her story will inspire parents to speak to their kids about so-called social media "challenges" that aim to make fun of or harm others.
"The amount of families — literally people out of the country — who've messaged me and said: 'I'm so sorry about what happened to you, but I want to let you know I sat down at the dinner table tonight to talk to my kids," Clay-Monaghan says. "I could never contact everyone back to say thank you."