It's been about a month since Nicole French took her son Jayden, now 3, to the doctor with what she was told was a double ear infection.
This week, Jayden began outpatient rehab at Parkview Hospital to relearn how to stand up on his own, walk and talk.
The whirlwind of the past four weeks have been tough on French, Jayden's father Cody Cross, Jayden's older brother Jaxson, 4, and their extended family, French said.
“I was shocked and really frustrated,” French said. “For awhile I was just numb.”
The doctor sent Jayden home the night of May 9 with what he said was a double ear infection. The next day, Cross took his son to the emergency room. The boy's eyes were glazed over; he was having seizure-like convulsions and was unresponsive.
For two days, French said Jayden barely ate or drank.
“He just lay there,” she said.
Doctors performed a CAT scan and prescribed seizure medication for Jayden and called in a neurologist, who still couldn't tell French and Cross what was wrong with their son.
The family was sent to Parkview where Jayden spent a week in the Intensive Care Unit, undergoing a variety of tests: a brain scan, spinal tap, an MRI and blood and urine tests.
Doctors still weren't any closer to an answer for what was wrong with Jayden or why it happened.
The family spent another week in the hospital's pediatric unit, waiting for a bed in the rehabilitation unit at Riley Children's Hospital, but the family was advised to start outpatient therapy locally, instead of continuing to wait.
“In the end some kind of bacterial infection was the answer I got,” French said about Jayden's diagnosis.
But so many unanswered questions remained about how he contracted the infection and could it happen again?
“That fear will always be there,” French said.
Jayden's grandmother, Jeanne Cross, carried Jayden out of his bedroom on Tuesday into the family's living room. She held him and moved him carefully, being sure to support his head. He didn't respond to questions, just stared around the room.
At age 3, the infection left Jayden with abilities like those of an infant's. He wears diapers again, can't walk or stand up on his own and just recently began holding his head up on his own.
The crisis took a toll on the entire family. French hasn't been back to work since the day she left to be with Jayden in the emergency room. The family shut off their cable, and French said her and Cody's cell phones are likely next.
French hasn't gotten a medical bill yet and couldn't estimate how much the therapy, tests, week in ICU and another week in the hospital will cost, but said the insurance they have requires a high deductible.
Jeanne Cross and some other family members have planned a benefit in Jayden's honor, celebrating the fact that he made it through the ordeal and raising money to help with his medical bills.
The event will feature a raffle, silent auction, food, live music and family-friendly games and events.
Jeanne, who owns American Style Ballroom, a local dance studio with two locations, said she's been a strong supporter of local charity.
“I'm hoping some of those people that I've helped will step forward to help my family,” she said.
French said Jayden is slowly getting better everyday, but “it's still a long road to a full recovery.”
After some time out in the living room with his grandma, older brother and mom, Jayden warmed up, moving his hands, kicking his brother and smiling.
French asked her son how old he was and Jayden responded holding up two fingers. French formed Jayden's fingers to display three, taking into account the birthday Jayden celebrated the day before.
They asked Jayden questions, which took him some time to answer, the words, “Yes,” or “me” forced out of his throat like he'd been holding them there for quite awhile. With each response he was praised, displaying a wide smile as he laughed along with the cheers from his family.
French said she couldn't have survived this journey without the help of extended family and friends and the time and effort of the many doctors and nurses that cared for Jayden.
But what helped the most was the wide smile of her son, which seemed to remain even when Jayden couldn't speak.
“Seeing him smile everyday has kept me going,” she said.