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By Juliet McDonald
YOUNGSVILLE — It was supposed to be a vacation night to remember — for the fun of family sledding time, something not too available in Youngsville.
Little Parker Bailey, age 3, was having the time of his life Wednesday, Feb. 12, flying down the hill on his tube. His dad, Travis, would come down and help him back up the hill after each run, and get him ready for the next slide.
After one such run, however, a much older girl came careening down the same lane as Parker’s mom and dad watched helplessly.
The teenager had spun around, the back of her head crashing into Parker’s forehead.
Travis and mom Morgan, who was eight months pregnant at the time, made their way to Parker, who lay motionless in the snow.
Morgan, a pediatric nurse with Duke Children’s Hospital, knew immediately it was more than just a bump on the head.
Parker’s forehead was flat from the impact, his eye was already swollen shut and his nose was bleeding profusely — all signs of a skull fracture with a possible brain bleed.
She called 911 and began to pray.
Pleading with God
The weather conditions which brought snowy delight to many up and down the east coast also grounded all emergency flights. A LifeFlight helicopter was not an option. They had to take an ambulance.
It took an agonizing 25 minutes on the icy roads to get Parker to the nearest hospital, while he drifted in and out of consciousness.
The closest facility was not equipped to handle such a traumatic injury. The doctors stabilized Parker by sedation and put in a breathing tube. They also ran a CT scan.
“I was walking and praying, and praying and walking,” Morgan remembers of that initial time. “Pleading with God for my son’s life.”
It was at this time that family and friends began passing information to others via texts and a Facebook page.
The scan revealed two brain bleeds and a lengthy skull fracture which ran across the frontal area, into the sinus cavity. The left orbital socket was also fractured.
Because Parker was wearing ski goggles at the time of the impact, the eye gear probably protected the eye itself from direct trauma. But they also caused the fracture to be across a much larger area as the pressure against the goggles had dispersed the impact around the edge of the goggles.
The hospital staff recognized Parker needed more exacting care and began to make arrangements for transfer to a trauma unit, again by ambulance.
The next hour was grueling. Parker began to vomit, increasing his risk of aspirating matter into his lungs. His oxygen levels became unstable. Morgan was able to ride with him and Travis followed behind.
Upon arrival, Parker was whisked away for more tests, and Morgan began calling her co-workers at Duke Children’s Hospital.
The Duke Pediatric Neurosurgery team stayed on the phone with Morgan throughout all hours of the night, reminding her what to look for, and giving their expert medical advice.
Even with the breathing tube, Parkers oxygen levels remained unstable. And then, the situation became more critical as his blood pressure and temperature spiked. Parker was right in the middle of the most crucial time of head injuries with brain bleeds.
At 7 a.m. Thursday morning, about 12 hours after the injury, another CT scan was done. By all accounts, the prayers of many had begun to be answered: one bleed was noticeably smaller and the other was hardly visible.
By now, the Facebook page was being followed by folks all over the United States, most praying and all with words of comfort for the family.
Good news, long journey
While the new scan was good news, Morgan knew they would not be able to breathe easy until a full 48 hours had passed.
By Thursday evening, 24 hours after the accident, they began to make plans to transfer Parker to Duke.
Air flights were still grounded. So Parker was bundled into the back of an ambulance. For six hours they endured a bumpy ride, but as they pulled into their third hospital, Morgan said, “I breathed a huge sigh of relief, just knowing we were close to home and with the best staff in the world, my friends.” Her co-workers were all there to greet them and get to work caring for the child of one of their own.
The 48-hour critical window began to close and his fever came down, his oxygen levels stabilized, and they were given great news that no reconstructive surgery would be needed at this time. Parker’s left eye was still of concern because the fractures in the orbital socket had caused such swelling, it was virtually impossible to examine the eye itself, much less the optic nerve behind it.
Saturday he was moved out of the intensive care unit, and though he was still badly banged up and seemed to be headed for a lengthy recovery, his life had been spared.
As the weekend progressed, both eyes remained swollen shut, Parker was still on IV as he was not able to eat or drink and he was in quite a bit of pain, and unable to walk.
Monday was a difficult day as the entire team of specialist made evaluations and long term assessments. Parker was dizzy, struggled with balance issues, and was still not up and walking.
But Wednesday, just a week after the trauma, something extraordinary happened — Parker was released to go home.
Home sweet home
Exactly one week after his accident, he was back in his own bed and familiar surroundings. He was subdued and quiet, comforted by his 5-year-old brother Colby, and though still not walking on his own, for the first time did show interest in making the effort.
As the days went by, the swelling went down on his good eye, and his movement picked up as well as his speech. Doctors began patching his good eye to force his brain to remember the fractured left eye and to to build back up strength.
Parker will be seen by the teams at Duke for another assessment at the end of March to ensure the fracture is healing as it should and follow-up to decide if speech, physical therapy or any other services are deemed necessary. He is walking, talking and playing with his toys now — even bickering with his brother, which is music to his parents’ ears.
The Bailey family has been completely overwhelmed with the amount of prayer, cards, meals, gifts and monetary support not just from their community, but across the country
Tears of gratitude streamed down Morgan’s face as she said, “Although I know we live in a world so broken and fallen, this incident has only strengthened my faith as I know people from all over, perfect strangers, began praying for him day after day. “We honestly can’t thank everyone enough for all the support we have been blessed with during this! Looking at Parker today, it is obvious that God is still in the miracle-making business. And if there is anything I want to make sure comes from all of this, it is parents please make your kids wear their helmets if they are sledding or snow-tubing.
“And these facilities where snow-tubing is taking place need to provide adequate staff monitoring both top and bottom of the hill and require a helmet to participate.”
As with any extensive injury, the Bailey family has incurred a substantial amount of medical bills which will not be covered by insurance. If you would like to help this family financially, you can send a donation of any size to Parker Bailey PO Box 811, Youngsville, N.C. 27596.