Truman Oaks

2013 Halloween

Truman Oaks’ Survival Story

About two years ago, when we lived in Wichita, I read a horrible story about a three year old who was killed in the drive thru at a McDonald’s we frequented. It really shook me up. After that, I told Truman repeatedly to watch for cars, never cross the street without an adult, etc. To the point where he would tell other kids to get out of the street, even when he was as young as 18 months old! We had a “”one hand on the car”” rule if I was ever getting something out or putting something in the car and couldn’t hold his hand. I put a chain lock on my front door and door knob covers on the door to the garage, just to make sure he never left the house without me. Him being hit by a car was my worst nightmare.

Halloween 2008. It was a busy morning. We were all wanting the day to pass quickly, so we could Trick or Treat that night. I was dressed as a go go girl for 70’s day at the school where I teach, and my husband was dressed as a referee. I put Truman in a bright orange and black Halloween shirt (saving his pirate costume for that evening), and we left the house. I headed to work, and my husband dropped Truman off with the babysitter on his way to work. Our day was off to a normal start.

Then at around 9:30 the office calls to say I have an emergency phone call. All sorts of things run through my mind as I rush to the phone. It’s my husband. He can barely speak. He keeps tripping over his words, but finally tells me that Truman has been hit by a car. I scream, “”NO!”” and fall to my knees. He tells me that he is still alive and to get to the ER as fast as I can. I can’t breathe. My assistant principal drives me to the ER, and it seems to take forever. We are praying on the way there. I keep thinking maybe he was just bumped, not run over -after all, it was in a preschool parking lot. I could deal with a broken bone. I was trying to be optimistic.

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That optimism was shattered when I arrived at the ER. There was a volunteer waiting for me who ushered me into a little room where my husband was waiting with the chaplain. My heart sank. It seemed like forever before I was able to see my son. They had to put a chest tube in and stabilized him. I got to see him for a few minutes before they flew him to another hospital with a PICU.

I’m still not exactly sure what happened since I wasn’t there. I’m so thankful that I did not have to see the accident happen, but it still haunts me. I picture it in my head every time I close my eyes. I’ve pieced together the story from what we have been told by witnesses and the police report.

Everything was different from the routine that day. My son doesn’t normally go to preschool on Fridays, but the babysitter’s son does. They normally drop him off and drive on, but since it was Halloween, they were having a party and parade. The babysitter, her daughter, and Truman were going to go in with her son to see the parade and take pictures. Other parents were parking and coming in, too, which was out of the ordinary. My babysitter opened the doors to her van, unbuckled Truman and her son, and was in the process of getting her daughter out.

Unfortunately that day, she opened both doors of the van instead of having everyone get out on her side. Truman exited on the passenger side and started to walk around the back of the van. For some reason, he stopped behind the van. I’m still not sure why. My babysitter dropped her camera which broke into pieces. She was trying to pick them up when she heard screaming. She looked over to see Truman pinned under the back tire of an SUV. Truman’s preschool teacher was yelling at the driver to pull forward. She had run over him with both the front and back tire of a 3800 pound vehicle. She never even saw him. Instead of making a full left turn, she cut the corner, so she didn’t even know what she had hit. He didn’t dart out, he wasn’t even moving at all…just standing there. It breaks my heart.

Amazingly, Truman is expected to make a full recovery. We spent 4 days in the PICU, and two more on the pediatric floor, and we were sent home. He had a collapsed lung, a very swollen black eye, a small fracture in his collar bone, and the most serious injury -a lacerated liver. No broken bones, no spinal damage, no brain injury, no surgery. He has to have “”quiet play”” for the next 3-6 months while his liver heals which is very difficult for an active 3 year old, but we are adjusting. We feel very blessed!

– Debi Oaks



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