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A MIRACLE FOR MUSIC MAN
The Thomases needed a miracle for their 2-year-old, Anthony. Days dragged like years by Anthony’s beside at Children’s Hospital Central California. “The first month I was so stressed,” says Timica Thomas, recalling her son’s prolonged Hospital stay. “He was not even moving,” she says. “For Anthony to be able to move again was not a promise we were given.”
Anthony was admitted to Children’s Hospital May 2009 with a traumatic injury to his cervical spine. “I left him at my cousin’s house that day and took my daughters shopping,” says Timica. “I wasn’t very far away, just a couple of blocks, when I got the call.” While playing video games, Anthony fell from the top of his cousin’s bunk bed, breaking the first two vertebrae in his neck.
Damage to the uppermost part of the spinal column can cause paralysis in the muscles of the chest wall and affect neurologic control of breathing. Anthony’s fall literally took his breath away. Doctors worked diligently, performing a lifesaving tracheostomy and fitting him with a ventilator and a halo to stabilize his neck while the vertebrae healed.
“Anthony’s injury was complicated because the damage to the spinal cord was so high on his cervical spine,” says Dr. Jennifer Crocker, medical director, Children’s pediatric rehabilitation center. “There were so many vital systems affected.”
A melody of hope
More than four weeks into his Hospital stay, Anthony’s head remained secured by the halo. Below his neck, nothing could move. However, his expressive eyes danced. “The nurses called him ‘Music Man’ because he babbled all the time,” says Timica.
The day Anthony’s parents watched their son move his feet, his healthcare team said spasms were common with spinal cord injuries and cautioned them not to have false hope. Anthony’s parents understood the effects of the neurological damage caused by their son’s fall, but they
continued to hope for the best outcome. They still expected their miracle.
“After Anthony was in the Hospital about a month and a half, he squeezed my hand,” says Anthony Thomas, Sr., Anthony’s dad. “I got the nurse and showed her, and all of a sudden everyone was in the room – doctors and nurses, everyone.” He smiled at the memory. “Anthony did it. He squeezed my hand.” The Thomases finally received their miracle.
Tristan Yang, respiratory therapist at Children’s Home Care, met the Thomases a few weeks before Anthony’s discharge and began visiting their residence on a regular basis the day Anthony went home. Tristan helped them learn ventilator operation and tracheostomy care during Anthony’s inpatient stay, and coached on a weekly basis in their home for the first several months.
The harmony of home
“In the beginning when I showed up, Anthony would cry while I was there,” says Tristan. “I made him think of needles and procedures. But six months later he gave me his trust.” Tristan continues to visit, stopping in once a month and staying about an hour each time.
“Tristan is wonderful,” says Timica. “The time and quality that Home Care puts into what we need means so much to me. They’re the best. To be honest, I didn’t expect this. I thought I’d be left here on my own, but it’s not like that at all.” Children’s Home Care delivers the same high level of care Anthony received as an inpatient.
“Mom is a strong believer and has high hopes for her son,” says Tristan. “Big hopes bring a down life back up. Having that spirit, making Anthony believe he can walk again and hold a spoon, and being strong-minded, it makes a big difference.”
“We are grateful to have been able to work with such a terrific kid and family and continue to hope for more recovery,” says Dr. Crocker.
Christopher Reeve, famous for his role as Superman, received accolades for his heroic achievements after injuring his cervical spine. Children’s Hospital staff who enjoyed the honor of treating Anthony know another hero who overcame a devastating spinal cord injury. Here at Children’s we call him “Music Man.”