It was a hot Thursday night in August 2009 David’s mom Tahnee gave him a kiss and told him to put his bike helmet on before she drove down the street. She knew her 8 year old son had the habit of removing his helmet when his head got sweaty.
Tahnee had only a few weeks earlier decided that she wanted to start carving out a little time for herself. She was married with two boys and a demanding job. She chose to go to karaoke once a week. That particular evening in August she was leaving to meet her best friend Natalie, Natalie’s son Marty, and her parent’s. David was supposed to go with her but decided to stay home.
She stopped at the convenience store up the street and as she got back into her car she heard her phone ringing it was Natalie. Assuming her friend was on her way she was surprised to hear her frantic on the other end. “Tahnee, you need to listen to me. David has been hit by a car. You need to get home.” She screamed as she rushed home to get to her son. As she approached her street it was blocked off. She pulled into the neighbors grass and ran. David was already in the ambulance when she arrived. The paramedics allowed her to climb into see him. David was covered up so she could see his head was swollen but not the magnitude of his other injuries. She told him she was there and he moaned. He was not conscience and closer to death than she could even fathom. As she looks back on that moment she thanks God that she didn’t see him didn’t see him on the street.” David’s 5 year old brother Eli ran to the neighbors and they called 911. Thankfully their neighbor Barbara was a nurse she cleared David’s airway and performed CPR until the paramedics were on the scene.
David was airlifted to DC Children’s Hospital in Washington D.C. Tahnee, David’s dad Scott, and Tahnee’s best friend Natalie drove to D.C.. Natalie’s other son Micheal printed them directions before they left.. It seemed like forever to get there. They were scared, they were lost, and they believed that they may even be headed to the wrong hospital. They had no idea what to expect when they arrived at the hospital; and as they traveled Tahnee prayed for a sign she looked next to them at that moment and saw a bus that had a sign that read “Next Stop Greener Pastures.” She felt a peace and was confident her son would be okay.
They arrived at the hospital to sheer chaos. No one had record of David ever arriving. Panicked and confused they finally discovered that David’s injuries were so severe that he was never registered he was taken straight back to surgery. This was just the first of many surgeries. David suffered severe traumatic brain injury. The left side of his face had been fractured. His jaw had been fractured, two breaks. His left arm had been broken. Both of his legs were broken and his right foot was fractured. His left hip had also been broken and he had a stroke. Luckily, there were no internal injuries and his spine was not harmed.
David wasn’t quite out of the woods. Tahnee and Scott had a difficult decision ahead of them. His leg was damaged so badly the best option they had so it would not become infected was amputation. They took the night to ponder their decision and decided that amputation would be the best for David’s long term prognosis. The doctors used the bone from David’s leg to fuse his broken arm.
David was at D.C. Children’s hospital for 45 days. He was on life support for an entire month. He recalls waking up, scared. He didn’t know what happened or where he was. He couldn’t talk and was restrained so he really couldn’t move. Patients with David’s type of injuries are often restrained because when they wake up they can become violent because of fear. David never became violent. His mom was soon by his side. He doesn’t remember much of what happened to him during his recovery. He even spent his 9th birthday in the hospital. Tahnee recalls that it was a really difficult recovery day for David. He was not in a party mood and still somewhat out of it but family was there to celebrate him. I am sure this birthday was a true celebration of the miracle of his life. Tahnee informed all of the family that attended that there would be no crying. She was firm on no negativity around David. She wanted everyone to “laugh, joke, and live normal.”
There was still another part of the story. When you have two children you simply can’t stop taking care of the child that wasn’t hurt. Tahnee and Scott spent a lot of time at the hospital and they brought Eli as much as he wanted but that is a pretty scary scene for a five year old. He saw what happened to his brother. As I mentioned before he was the one who went and got help. I believe he is a hero in his own right. It takes an amazing young boy to go for help. Eli stayed with his grandparents during the week, alternating week to week with each set of grandparents. His father would pick him up on Friday and they would spend the weekends together. Their family, friends, and even the community rallied around them. The first week at the hospital Tahnee had a professional therapist from Child’s Life talk to with Eli to help him to understand what was happening to his brother. She wanted to make sure he wouldn’t be “worried sick.” Tahnee remembers “Eli was a breath of fresh air. He made everyone laugh.” A much needed release from the overwhelming circumstances.
Through all of this Tahnee had to file for FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) from work. Eventually, she accepted a voluntary lay off from her employment. She has since been reinstated to her job. Scott had to return to work after the first month. The community had fundraisers to help with the ongoing medical expenses.
David was released from the hospital and transferred to Kennedy Krieger Hospital in Baltimore for therapy. Remember David still had to learn how to do everything again. It was like starting life anew but in a bigger body with more obstacles. He needed to learn how to walk, use his hands, and talk.. He still had a long road of recovery ahead of him. He was in the therapy program for 5 months where he participated in intensive respiratory, physical occupational, and speech therapies, while still keeping up with school. He also had neuro and behavior psychology. After his therapeutic stay he enrolled in the Specialized Transitional Program. This program was also through Kennedy Krieger and is designed to help children transition back into their school settings and advocate for themselves without their parents. David finally got to come home for good; August 2010, one year after his accident.
One he was home David continued with therapy and acupuncture. He had to adapt to his new way of living. During this time his parents divorced. To supplement income Tahnee moved a family friend Ben into their basement apartment. Ben became a big part of helping David recover. When Tahnee wanted to protect her baby and let him rest Ben would hold her back and push David to do more. What Tahnee didn’t realize was renting a room to Ben would change her life. He was kind to her children and he encouraged David to do more and believe in himself. Sometime while he was living in the basement she fell in love with him. Ben and Tahnee have since married and a year ago they added another little boy named Gus to their family.
It’s been five years since David’s accident and he is doing amazing. He has ditched his walker an now walks with a cane. He went to summer school and completed the seventh grade last summer so he could catch up to his classmates. He will be starting high school next year. His mom says “David wants to do everything. He wants to live, live, live.”
Throughout the accident and long recovery Tahnee credits her faith in God as what got them through the stresses they were going through. “If I didn’t have faith I don’t know how we’d get here. It brings positivity. Our prayers were heard.”
Eli is now in fifth grade. He is laid back and prefers routine. He is a kind and gentle boy. He likes to run track and play video games. Eli is also very protective of his brothers; especially, his little brother Gus.
David is in eighth grade and enjoys karate and video games. His favorite game at the moment is Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies. He wants to become an orthotist when he grows up and help others with prosthetic limbs.
I enjoyed interviewing this family so much. The entire is family is so positive and happy. It is refreshing. I asked David if he is ever angry about his accident and his response was no. That in itself speaks volumes of this boy and his encouraging family. David is truly an inspirational miracle.
David’s father Scott started a Polar Plunge fundraiser to raise funds to give back to those that have helped them along the way. The proceeds go to Camp No Limits. Click here for more information about David and their fundraiser.