Dakota was born healthy and active. When he was 2 years and 3 months old, a fence panel fell on top of him which left him unable to breathe. No one was next to him when it happened and due to the lack of oxygen, he couldn't breathe or cry for help. By the time he was found, they estimate it took about 20 minutes, he was left with an anoxic brain injury. In an instant he went from a healthy, busy, talkative, active 2 year old boy, to a boy that could no longer walk, talk, eat, or even breathe on his own. He should have passed away, but miraculously, he chose to live. Dakota has progressed over the last 5 years since his accident, but he is still very limited by his body. He cannot use any part of his body as he would like and his only form of communication is through his facial expressions and eyes. He has a g-tube for feedings and a trach for breathing and suctioning. We are so blessed to have Dakota in our lives.
Q: You and your husband experienced so much that first year, what did you find most helpful during your stay at the hospital?
A: “Some of the best things that were done for us were gift baskets that were either dropped off or mailed. Baskets with snacks, blankets, thank you cards, journal, chapstick, tissue, slippers, comfy clothes, etc were SOOOO helpful because we were literally living at the hospital for 6 weeks. Those little tokens were so helpful and made being in a hospital a tiny but more bearable. Our son's nursery class in church sent him coloring pages from all the kids and teachers which we were able to put up in the hospital room to feel it with cheer. TONS of Toy Story toys were either brought by or mailed because that was Dakota's FAVORITE thing! It was comforting having little reminders of things he loved around him although we realized he had no idea they were there. Our parents and siblings printed off poster size pictures of Dakota that we hung all around the room. This was probably my MOST favorite thing because it allowed the nurses and doctors who were working on him to get a glimpse of who this little boy underneath all the hoses really was, what he looked like, what he loved, and how much he was loved.”
(Dakota, before his accident)
Q: After spending six weeks in the hospital, what was most helpful after returning home?
A: “The first few months home were extremely overwhelming to say the least. Dakota was very unstable and needed around the clock care. We hardly slept and we were literally in survival mode. Nothing at all was the same as it once was. Our days were filled with tons of meds, g-tube feedings, therapy, suctioning, mourning, and adjusting. It was a very hard time for my husband and I. We still weren't ready to face the world—our friends and neighbors who wanted to see us and Dakota. Luckily for us our friends and family understood and were patient with us as we focused on adjusting to our new life. Instead of stopping by, they would text thoughtful messages, leave notes at our door or send them in the mail to let us know they were there for us. (Some people might love a visit, everyone is different.) Our parents were the most helpful during this difficult and dark time. They came up weekly to let us get out and go on a date, which gave us a much needed break. We needed that time alone and together and away from all the chaos. That was literally our saving grace.”
“We also had amazing church members that brought us meals for not just a few days or weeks, but literally a few months! I realize that was probably a difficult task for all of them and how much they sacrificed for us...but those meals were lifesaving. The last thing on my mind or that I even had time for was wondering what to make for dinner. Their kindness and compassion in bringing us those meals gave me a little bit more strength and energy to get through the day. We had random friends and neighbors outside pulling our weeds. The help with those mundane, time consuming tasks was THE BEST thing that anyone could have done for us!! The kind notes, messages, and money that came in the mail also continued...not just for days, weeks, or months but for a couple years, although they got fewer and fewer. I think so often people forget about someone's struggle after the newness and freshness of it all fades away...but it was those lingering notes of kind and encouraging words that gave us the strength to keep going and allowed us to see and feel that our Heavenly Father was still aware of us...sending his earthly angels to continue to strengthen and encourage us to not give up.”
Q: What are helpful things that people do now, five years later?
A: “Dakota has progressed into a happy, sweet, INCREDIBLE little boy who radiates a little piece of heaven everywhere he goes. It took a couple years to be able to accept this new Dakota, trust in God's plan for Him, and move forward with faith, hope, and PURE happiness! I no longer look at this trial with devastation and heartache as I once did although my heart still misses that 2 year old boy I once knew. I have been able to see and feel through the grace of God what a blessing this trial has been for me, my family, and ALL those that know Dakota. I now can say with complete certainty that Dakota chose this plan to be a light for all the world to see. His eyes sparkle with a light only heaven can give. He has done more good in his short 7 years then most can do in a lifetime. Saying all of this...it doesn't take away that my daily load is still heavy. He still needs help to do everything! I still have times where I feel overwhelmed or just tired. Luckily for us we have amazing parents who step in and babysit for Dakota since only those who are trained with a trach can watch him. He goes to school and it melts my heart to see the kindness and friendship from the kids at his school. I think as a parent if you can teach your children how special and amazing the kids with special needs are it will make them more comfortable around them and will in turn allow them to be kind and loving towards them. That means the very most to parents of special needs kid. I will never forget when a mom from Dakota's preschool called to see if Dakota could have a playdate. She had no idea that Dakota had any special needs. Her kid just loved him and wanted to play with him!”
Tessie mentioned dinner being delivered for months. Here’s a fun twist. I purchased the ingredients to make spaghetti, printed the adorable free printable designed by Miss Audrey Sue, and threw it all together in an adorable colander. (You can download the printable below) After purchasing everything, I literally put the basket together in less than 10 minutes, including a note on the backside of the printable. This is a great alternative to delivering dinner when just wanting to drop by unexpectedly. Therefore if they already have dinner planned, they can use it for another night.
- Spaghetti sauce
- 1 bag of salad
- Ranch dressing
- Parmesan cheese
- Cookie mix
- French bread (not pictured)
- Free printable (sign up below)
- optional: meat to add to the spaghetti sauce.