For centuries, stories of action heroes have been used to inspire and motivate children. The stories have a common pattern: They begin with a likeable hero who encounters a roadblock in life. And then, with the help of others, the hero emerges from the difficult situation transformed by his experiences.
Grant Craft, age 7, loves drawing action heroes. His favorite is Leonardo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who is fiercely loyal to his brothers, just like Grant is with his own younger brothers. For 20 days, Grant spent hours drawing Leonardo and other action figures at Dayton Children’s after he was accidently run over by a lawnmower.
Today, Grant has made a 95 percent recovery. To look at him, you would never know that he almost had his arm amputated, the lawnmower blade tore nearly all of the skin off of his right leg and his heel was severed. Thanks to the care team of surgeons, nurses, even dietary workers at Dayton Children’s, Grant emerged from a horrible situation, changed by his experiences.
September 9, 2012, was a typical Sunday at the Craft house in Richmond, Indiana. Grant’s mother Michelle was working at Reid Hospital, where she’s a nurse. Grant was playing action heroes in the backyard with his little brothers Wyatt, 5, and Gavin, 2. Rhett, Grant’s father, was on the family’s riding lawnmower.
“While the boys were playing in the backyard, Grant went to shoot me with a Nerf gun,” Rhett shares. “I didn’t realize Grant was chasing me, when I made a sharp turn with the lawnmower to mow a spot I missed. The grass was slightly damp that day, and Grant was wearing shoes with absolutely no tread.”
Grant slipped. The mower stopped. Rhett called 9-1-1, and then his wife Michelle. They were on their way to the hospital where she works with Grant in the back of the ambulance.
A nurse met Michelle in the emergency room and told her that CareFlight would arrive in a few minutes to take Grant to Dayton Children’s.
“When we arrived at Dayton Children’s, we were taken to the trauma room and met Dr. John Wiemann and Dr. Michael Albert as well as a team of nurses,” says Michelle. “They very calmly explained everything that was happening. As a nurse, I have seen my share of patients during a tragedy, but I have never seen this level of calm and skill during a crisis. It was extremely comforting during the absolute worst day of our lives.”
Reducing the risks of amputations and infection were the biggest priorities for the surgical team. Grant was whisked back to surgery less than an hour after arriving.
“We were updated every hour by the charge nurse,” Michelle shares. “This nurse embraced me and comforted me during his six-hour surgery, which were arguably the longest six hours of my life. For the rest of my life, I will never forget her face; she made those six hours bearable.”
During surgery, Dr. Wiemann reattached Grant’s heel, three of his toes and worked to clean out the extensive wounds on his hip and leg that would require multiple skin grafts in the months to come.
Dr. Albert worked to repair Grant’s arm, stabilizing it with pins at first. Months later, Grant would need another surgery to insert a cadaver bone where more than an inch of his arm bone was missing.
Grant was taken to the operating room every few days for the first week to clean out the grass and debris from his leg and start skin grafting.
“We knew pretty quickly that there wasn’t a systemic infection, which often leads to amputation,” Dr. Wiemann explained. “Once we were past that hurdle, we knew Grant’s recovery would be long and painful, but I was extremely optimistic he could go back to drawing, painting and chasing his brothers.”
Grant spent the first week in the pediatric intensive care unit. “The first night he was there he was terrified. One of the nurses brought him glow-in-the-dark glasses that night, which really made him feel better,” Michelle shares.
Grant spent 20 days total at Dayton Children’s where his care team extended beyond doctors and nurses. Child psychologists came to talk with him nearly every day to help with emotional scars and physical therapy started 10 days later to help with the physical scars.
“Physical therapy was terrifying for Grant because it was so painful,” Michelle explained. “But the physical therapist was so gentle and explained everything in a way a 6-year-old could understand, which made it much easier for him.”
“When you’re in the hospital for weeks at a time, the littlest things mean the most,” Michelle explains. “A member of dietary remembered our family and stopped by every day and encouraged Grant to eat. That personal touch was important because he didn’t have much of an appetite, and eating is essential to successfully healing.”
A survivor’s spirit
Grant had a total of eight surgeries over a year, including a bone graft on his arm and skin grafts on his hip and leg. He spent two months in a wheelchair and wore a cast on his arm for seven months.
“Over time, Grant will make 100 percent recovery,” explains Dr. Wiemann. “Twenty years from now, he could run a marathon if he chooses. While I was extremely confident we could repair his injuries, his amazing attitude and his family’s support have been a big factor to his outstanding recovery.”
“There are so many heroes in Grant’s story of survival,” Michelle explains. “The first is Grant for surviving this monumental roadblock in his young life. With the help of the surgeons, nurses, physical therapists, even dietary, nearly 18 months later, he’s made almost a full recovery. We are forever thankful for the care Grant received - and continues to receive at Dayton Children's! These heroes worked miracles.”
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