Richard Grayson still has the shoes his son was wearing on the day of his life-altering accident.
The Grayson family moved to Beaumont in late June of this year. Six days later, on July 4, they had their lives changed forever when their 13-year-old son Lincoln got in a severe bike accident, severely damaging his neck and spinal cord after falling off his bike while riding downhill.
Five months later Lincoln is still at the Stollery Children’s Hospital and is paralyzed from the upper chest down. He requires assistance from a ventilator to breathe and underwent a tracheotomy, which is when a tube is inserted into the neck to deliver oxygen.
His family is hoping to bring him home to visit on Christmas.
Sitting at the Stollery, Grayson presses buttons on a machine connected to Lincoln’s tracheostomy tube so that he can insert a speaking valve for him. The mechanical beeping of the machine clashes with the soft Christmas music breezing through the hospital halls.
“It’s hard to get used to,” Lincoln says slowly, his words delivered in concert with gasps for air. With his speaking valve, it’s harder for Lincoln to breathe, because it allows air to pass into the tracheostomy (trach for short), but not out through it, making Lincoln have to breathe out his nose.
“With the speaking valve, he’s exercising his muscles so he can get a bit more volume and thrust,” Grayson explains. “The idea is to do these trials more and more frequently, to build some strength.”
“Need to vent,” Lincoln remarks, which is the term they use for when he needs the speaking valve replaced with his regular trach tube.
Grayson takes off the speaking valve, but at first the trach tube is delivering air too quickly. It takes a few minutes to get it to deliver the oxygen at a comfortable pace.
This is the life the family has had to adjust to. Grayson’s routine is to visit the Stollery each day after work.
“Week by week, I see a continued improvement in his health,” Grayson said. “Sometimes when you come in the morning and he’s had a decent sleep, his spirits are up.”
Lincoln has gone through more than any 13-year-old should have to go through.
Following the accident, he was in the ICU for 50 days in an induced coma. He underwent surgeries to stabilize his spinal cord and repair his facial fracture. He also had to have a drain placed into his spinal cord to allow for excess fluid to be removed and a feeding tube inserted into his stomach.
Victories for the family include Lincoln wiggling his hand and being able to move his neck so he doesn’t have to stare at the ceiling all day.
Lately, he’s been able to feed himself with a fork, with some assistance.
“The little steps are what keep us going,” Grayson said.
The family moved from Lethbridge to Beaumont to be closer to Grayson’s job in Nisku. The accident became more challenging due to the fact they were new to town.
“We don’t really know anyone in the community, but the people we do know, our neighbours and stuff, they’re genuine” Grayson said. “If we needed help, all we have to do is go and ask.”
The family has had a lot of support from friends and family and Lincoln has had some visits from old friends from Lethbridge.
“It’s helped us see the goodness in others,” Grayson said.
The experience has also brought the family closer together, although they’ve always been close. Lincoln says the fact that he survived the ordeal has strengthened his faith in God. The family has shown remarkable positivity considering their circumstances. They consider it a blessing that it happened so close to the Stollery so that the family can visit Lincoln close to home.
“We were told if this happened when we were in Lethbridge, we’d either be in Calgary or here,” Grayson said.
Grayson doesn’t believe in bad luck. From his perspective, it’s a miracle that Lincoln is alive today, and that he can smile, eat and speak. When Lincoln was first admitted, doctors gave a 0.2 per cent chance of him improving and were unsure if he would survive.
“I always say a good kid had a bad day on a bike,” Grayson said. “It’s like winter, this is what we got, and you can either ski, or you can freeze … We can be a miserable bunch, or we can try and make the best of it.”
Leaving the hospital is never easy for Grayson. He finds solace in thoughts of happier times, but they can also conjure up difficult memories.
“Looking back at pictures, that’s the hard part.” he said. “We know how precious those moments are now.”
The next challenge on the horizon is bringing Lincoln home to visit for Christmas. They want to bring him on a couple days throughout December to get used to caring for him, and then for an overnight stay on Christmas Eve.
“By then we should have a special bed set up for him,” Grayson said.
Going forward, the family wants to bring Lincoln home for good, but it won’t be easy. They are looking to convert their garage into a suite for Lincoln but the financial challenges are significant. A special automated air mattress that Lincoln needs to prevent bedsores comes to the tune of about $15,000.
The family also estimates they’ll be spending about $500 a month on various necessary tubes and syringes. They’ll also have to purchase an accessible vehicle. Alberta Aids to Daily Living provides assistance to families facing long-term disabilities, but Grayson describes it as “just the basics”. That’s why the family has set up a $100,000 fundraiser.
They want to have him back by September so Lincoln can attend J.E. Lapointe School in Beaumont. The future is uncertain, but it will at least provide something that resembles a normal life for the teen.
“He’s afraid of how the other kids will react, because he doesn’t have friends there,” Grayson said.
The shoes Lincoln was wearing on the day of the accident still sit on Grayson’s night table. Lincoln’s mom Carmen is not fond of the fact that they’re dirty and covered in grass, but she tolerates them.
The family is tremendously grateful to the Stollery Hospital, but are hoping everything will work out so that Lincoln can be home for Christmas.
“This place is fine to get him healed, but he belongs home,” Grayson said. “That’s all we’ve ever wanted.”
It’s been a long day for Lincoln. He’s tired and not in the greatest mood. But his eyes light up when he’s asked what, if anything, would make him happy. “Going home.” You can donate to the family by visiting www.gofundme.com/bringlincolnhome. You can also read more about the family’s story at www.thelinktolincoln.wordpress.com./
This story originally appeared in La Nouvelle Beaumont News.