'We never lost hope'|Family cheers every milestone
Published 11:07 am Monday, April 13, 2009
Kerry Whipple Bean
Lacie and Eddie McCall have watched their young son Whidden reach many milestones — his first smile, his first word — twice.
And despite the challenges the family has faced since an accident a year ago injured Whidden and Lacie, the second time around has been much sweeter.
But Whidden has been defying doctors’ predictions since the accident.
On March 22, 2008 — the day before Easter — Lacie was riding a four-wheeler on Ridge Road near the river, with 18-month-old Whidden on her lap.
Taking Whidden for rides was nothing new, Lacie said — she just never expected something bad to happen. “If you would crank up anything, he’d want to be on it,” Lacie said. “We never went fast. He loved to be in motion. We would take it really easy; we wouldn’t do anything to hurt him.”
Lacie doesn’t remember much about the accident, but she knows she awoke at the scene and saw a friend, who is a nurse, working to revive Whidden.
Both were airlifted to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, where doctors determined Lacie had broken ribs and a dislocated hip. She even lost a kidney.
But Whidden was in much worse shape. The impact of the accident had damaged his brain, doctors said. He was put in a medically-induced coma to allow the swelling in his brain to go down, Eddie said.
To help Lacie heal, family members didn’t tell her the extent of Whidden’s injuries for a while. “For my benefit, they weren’t really telling me the whole truth,” Lacie said.
Family and friends kept a vigil by both bedsides.
Lacie remained in the hospital for a week and a half. As she learned of the seriousness of Whidden’s condition, she refused to believe the doctors’ predictions.
One of Whidden’s doctors was so convinced of his fate that when she returned from a vacation to see that he was no longer in ICU, she asked, “When did the McCall baby die?”
The doctor was speechless when she saw he had been moved to another room — and that he turned his head to look at her when she walked in the door.
The McCalls believe it was their faith in their son’s recovery — and the prayers of an entire community — that helped him heal.
When Whidden was transferred from Pensacola to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, two ambulance drivers from Atmore donated their off time to transport him.
Whidden spent two weeks at Children’s Hospital before coming home to Brewton and soon began physical therapy in Andalusia. He wasn’t improving at quite the rate the McCalls had hoped, so they switched to a therapy program in Pensacola.
They saw an immediate improvement.
Whidden is re-learning all of the basic things he did when he was a newborn and infant — but he’s trying them in a different order this time. As a baby, he crawled first; now he’s been trying to talk, and he loves to laugh.
Lacie had just left for work when Whidden said his first words — for the second time — last week.
Eddie — known as Paw-Paw — baby-sits Whidden during the day, and, just like when Whidden was a baby, he tries out all of his new tricks on Paw-Paw first.
In therapy, Whidden has been learning to sit by himself and to stand up. He will soon begin speech and feeding therapy, and later this year he will be evaluated for pre-school.
Lacie said one of Whidden’s therapists has described it this way: “He’s there, he’s just trapped in his own body. Everything’s normal, he’s just trying to figure out how to do everything.”
Lacie imagines an even better future for Whidden than she did before the accident.
The family is grateful for the support of the community, many of whom contributed to fund-raisers, sent cards and teddy bears — dozens fill Whidden’s room — or simply prayed for his recovery.