On September 21st, 2014, the unthinkable happened for the Fretts family. During a trip to Texada Island, the van that their 12-year-old son Anakin was travelling in went off the road. Anakin suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and was flown by air ambulance to the ICU at BC Children’s Hospital.
Since then, Anakin’s family has been by his side in 24 hours a day, watching every procedure, reading every chart, and meeting every member of his medical team. Dad Daniel, mom Joleen, and Anakin’s grandparents took turns at the hospital and also caring for Anakin’s younger sister, 4-year-old Arwyn.
Since September, Anakin has been fighting hard to regain control of things we all take for granted: walking, blinking, and even swallowing. At first, doctors warned Daniel and Joleen that he might never be able to breathe without a ventilator. Then, in October, he pulled his breathing tube out. Next, they warned that he might never manage to swallow on his own. Surgery was planned to install a feeding tube directly into his stomach, but before that could happen, Anakin began eating and drinking on his own.
Now, after undergoing intensive rehabilitation at Sunny Hill Health Centre, Anakin is proudly walking and the family has been able to return home to Powell River to continue his recovery.
At first, says Daniel, their time in Vancouver was a blur. The family was in crisis management mode: they lived on take-out meals and their whole world was the hospital room. Then, as their crisis began to resolve, they discovered a community of other parents, all with a child in the hospital. They started going to family meals prepared by volunteers. Then, they found themselves buying groceries, cooking, and doing small things every day to take care of others they saw who were experiencing crises of their own. Daniel describes the families who stay at RMH BC as “strangers that gradually begin to care about each other, care about each other’s kids, and think about each other’s wellbeing.”