Toddler recovering slowly from near drowning

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Shavonne Potts
Salisbury Post
February 16 is probably a day Russell and Erin Wright would like to forget. It was the day they lost their son and found him ó only to lose pieces of him again.
Aidan, just five days shy of his second birthday, nearly drowned in a family member’s pond near Kannapolis.
The family had gathered at a home to celebrate Aidan’s birthday when he wandered off. He was found sometime later, floating face-down in the pond. The family isn’t sure how long he’d been in the water. There’s about 10 minutes unaccounted for from the time he was last seen to the time they knew he was missing, they said.
“Everything went into fast forward and slow motion at the same time,” Russell said.
It was Russell who dived into the water to pull his son out. By the time he reached Aidan, the toddler was blue and unresponsive and his eyes were wide open, images that Russell said are “permanently burned in my soul.”
A phone call to 911 which took minutes felt like an eternity, Russell said.
Sonia Sinclair, Aidan’s grandmother who is also a nurse, performed CPR until EMS arrived.
Erin said her mother closed Aidan’s eyes and, while she tried to revive Aidan, he opened his eyes twice on his own.
Medical personnel could not immediately find a pulse. Before loading the toddler into an ambulance they worked for 30 minutes to resuscitate him, his parents said. He responded on the way to the hospital.
“We thought it was going to be a day were going to celebrate,” Russell said.
The day was a blur for them both, Erin said.
Good and bad days
Aidan has been recovering and undergoing rehabilitation at Levine Children’s Hospital, a division of Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.
He was able to return home Thursday.
In a way, the family is still in mourning. Aidan is no longer their “rambunctious, curious, independent” boy who played with Tonka trucks and likes Curious George.
Aidan suffered significant brain trauma. He cannot walk or talk. His parents are unsure to what extent he can hear or see them. The portion of the brain that is damaged controls sensory input, sensation and perception.
There are good days and bad days, Russell said.
The family is just glad to be able to see him and “know he’s alive,” he said.
He works with speech, occupational and physical therapists two to three times a week, with sessions taking up three or four hours each day and spread across the morning and afternoon.
In occupational therapy, Aidan is working with his vision and sound. Therapist Ellen Hobbs purposely turns up noises like the radio and jingles a bell beside his ear. Many of the activities they work on are also for range of motion actions.
“We switch things up and change to different positions,” Hobbs said.
During his sessions, therapists place Aidan on a “stander,” strap him in so he won’t fall and get him used to standing on his on feet. The stander looks similar to a mini gurney with a place for Aidan to rest his feet. The equipment is designed to increase muscle tone in his feet and legs, especially his tendons.
Physical therapist Anne Mumaw massages his legs to soothe any pain Aidan feels while putting pressure on his feet.
The stander also prevents any bowing or stunting of his bones, Erin said.
“The staff here have been nothing short of incredible. They have shown they care and want to see him do well,” Russell said.
Dividing time
Erin and Russell divide their time between Aidan’s therapy appointments and caring for his younger brother, Evan, who is 9 months old. However, one or both show up for his therapy sessions.
The sessions have recently included a tutorial for the parents that will enable them to work with Aidan at home.
He wears a Clonidine patch to work in conjunction with taking Valium to control the neurological storms he experiences.
His father explained that when he has a storm, his blood pressure and heart rate get elevated and the medicines help keep it and the seizures under control.
When Aidan was taken by ambulance the day of the accident, he had to be intubated and a tracheotomy tube was put in place. When doctors tried to remove the tube, he struggled to breathe, so they left it in place.
The family is also looking into Aidan undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Some studies involving brain conditions have shown that pure oxygen pumped into the blood improve the condition, Russell explained.
“We’ve joined support groups who recommend we do it two times a day,” he said.
The hyperbaric therapy is not covered by the family’s insurance.
According to an insurance oversight committee, this type of therapy is not on the insurer’s list of approved treatments, he added. But it is where the largest chunk of hospital expenses will be incurred.
“We’re looking at an estimated $1,500 a week,” Russell said.
As to other expenses, the family said many of the bills have not come in yet and so they they aren’t sure what to expect, though they do expect them to be high.
Making strides
Aidan’s feet began pointing downward since most of his time was spent in a hospital bed.
He recently underwent serial casting, which is a non-invasive procedure where Aidan wears a well-padded cast that will help him have better range of motion and get his feet positioned to a normal stance.
It will also help to get him to the point where he can walk, his father said.
Aidan has made notable strides in what could be a lengthy recovery.
“We’ve come a long way,” Erin said.
“He’s our miracle. He’s been giving us little miracles day-by-day,” Russell said.
His parents said he sometimes follows people and objects with his eyes.
“Sometimes it’s as if he’s looking at you or he’s looking through you,” Russell said.
Aidan also seems to recognize their voices, Erin said.
“He’s had one time where he smiled when the therapist touched his face,” she said, stroking his cheek with the back of her finger.
He’s also made efforts to lift his head, and has begun small mouth movements leading them to believe he’s trying to swallow.
“We have significant hope that he is making progress,” Russell said.
There are no concrete goals in this recovery process, except Russell and Erin would like to have a routine of treatment and therapy sessions for their son down pat by next week.
Outpouring of support
Although they accept what could be many months of recovery, Russell said they do wish for things to be as they once were.
“We want him to be our normal little boy again,” he said.
As part of that routine, they’ll also have to incorporate the care of younger son Evan, who has been spending time with an aunt.
It pains them to split their time between the two boys, but they are grateful for support.
“It’s been a fortunate thing we’ve had a lot of family support,” Russell said.
Erin’s brother, Matt, helped build a wheelchair ramp at the family’s house and friends have organized a donation table at Carolina Speedway in Gastonia.
Outfitting their home to accept the different equipment such as the stander, a crib and wedges to help with therapy are the biggest adjustments for the family.
The family expressed their appreciation for the many prayers, concerns and donations made to them. They ask that the prayers continue.
“We’ve had an outpouring of support. It renews your faith that there are good people in the world. It renews my faith that there are people willing to do a good turn for others,” Russell said.
There is a Wachovia account in the name of Erin or Russell Wright set up to help with some of the family’s medical expenses.
Russell explained there was some confusion about how to spell Aidan’s name, so the account was put in theirs.
For updates on Aidan, the family maintains a blog about his recovery at
Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or