02-28-07 At first glance, he's just like any other two year old, reading with his mom. Smiling, and growing every day. But for Conner McDougal, every day is a gift.
"I'm so proud of this little guy. He is definitely a little miracle and he just amazes me every day," said Conner's mother, Sonja McDougal.
It was less than a year ago when Conner grabbed the hearts of Texomans and people around the world. The only survivor of a wreck in Dickson that killed his father and his older brother. Doctors told his mother he wouldn't live, even going as far as to tell her to turn off his life support.
"Tthe doctors sat us down for a family meeting to tell me I needed to take Conner off the ventilator and let go, " his mother said.
But her faith in God held her strong and helped Conner through his long recovery.
When we first introduced you to him back in September, he had amazed them all. Now, five months later, he's still proving doctors wrong. One step at a time.
"He's doing most of this I guide his legs but once we get going to a certain speed and a certain number of repatitions his muscles start firing to assist with this," said Shane Stoval, Conner's physical therapist. "I think the most striking difference is cognitively how he's progressed, Conner rcognizes people by their name by their face he cries when it's appropriate he laughs when it's appropriate ..in kids that have serious brain injuries that aren't healing have more inappropriate emotions."
In the past five months, doctors have been weening Conner off of his ventilator, teaching him to breathe on his own. He has become more mobile, rolling over on his own, ineracting more with facial expressions...even trying to speak...like he did during our interview with his speech pathologist, Beth Lane
"One of the main reasons Conner is doing so well and he's so healthy is he has two ladies taking care of him that do excelelent taking care of a ventilator patient and the trach and a tube and they do it all by themselves and they do an amazing job and they do it with a smile.... and so does Conner.. and so does Conner," Lane said.
But Conner still has a long way to go, with thousands of dollars in pending medical bills, including a 500,000 dollar specialty hospital called the Kennedy Kregger Institute in Maryland, that If Conner doesn't get, his therapists say will certainly slow his progress.
"Worst case senario it will take three to four imes longer and the longer he stays on the vetilator the more dependent he is .. that's the most important thing..we have to get him off the vent," Lane said.
But it's money and training his mother doesn't have to do on her own.
Within three months after the accident, Conner maxed out his million dollar medical insurance. And with the loss of his father, they also lost their insurance altogether. Leaving a widowed mother with only the support of friends, family and volunteers to help.
"We've still had people from all over the world reaching out to us. Just like this room, this was all done by people volunteering their time and their supplies," McDougal said.
This room is now used for Conner's rehabilitation, with a harness system rigged to a treadmill, that they came up with on their own.
"We've been brainstorming for quite a while," McDougal said.
And a dedication to give her son the best life possible.
A woman who has lost so much, now looking at each day as a challenge and a blessing. Watching Conner grow and heal, and trying to give him a life doctors said he'd never have.
"I think that's probably the worst thing for me.. I'm here in this horribe tragedy I've lost everything precious to me and I can't even get my son to the facility that I need to get him to.. to make him better.. that's really heartbreaking to me," she said.
That's 500,000 dollars to send Conner to this special spinal cord injury center in Baltimore, for only four weeks. Plus, the necessary equipment for his continued recovery at home...she's looking at thousands of dollars in medical bills. Her family and friends are trying to help.
There is an account set up if you'd like to make donations. The Conner McDougal savings account at Citizens Bank in Ardmore. This spring, the family hopes to set up more fundraisers as well. We are so proud to be sharing Conner's story, and I have to say I was truly inspired by the strength you feel in the McDougal home.
To make a donation, contact:
Citizens Bank & Trust Company
P.O. Box 1689 - Ardmore Oklahoma