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This fundraiser ended on 01/13/13

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The friends and family of Keaton Nichols are uniting to raise money to help cover medical expense not covered by insurance.

      On Friday, January 27, 2012, at 8:40 am our four year old, Keaton, was tragically injured and suffered a traumatic brain injury due to a gunshot wound to the head. In that instant our lives were forever changed. We were very lucky that Keaton survived and was able to be rushed to Duke Hospital. There Keaton was stabilized by the trauma team in the ER. The neurosurgery team determined to give him the best outcome was to do an emergency surgery called a craniectomy (remove part of the skull) which removes the skull damaged by the bullet, the bullet itself and gives the brain a place to swell which happens in a traumatic brain injury. Keaton had lost a lot of blood and we were worried if he would survive the surgery. However, our four year old is a stubborn little boy and we thank God every day for bestowing those qualities in our little guy. Without his stubbornness and never give up attitude, he probably would not have had as positive of an outcome. Keaton made it through his surgery and we attribute a lot of that to the wonderful neurosurgeon, Dr. Grant, and his team at Duke Hospital. Dr. Grant has worked with traumatic brain injuries in the military and he uses that knowledge to help children such as our little boy. He told us that the next 72 hours after surgery would be critical and that he would be watching Keaton’s intracranial pressures to see how his brain was healing after the injury. They placed a monitor called an ICP in Keaton’s head to monitor his pressures. Keaton was in the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) and hooked up to many kinds of monitors to watch his vital signs and intracranial pressures. He received blood which replaced the large amount he had lost as well as IV fluids. He was on a PCA (patient controlled analgesic) which gave him a continuous dose of pain medicine to help keep him comfortable. He was unconscious throughout the entire weekend but he started to arouse on Sunday and the PICU team decided to restrain him in order to keep his tubes and lines stable. Keaton was starting to follow commands and even said the word “OUCH” when the nurse tried to turn him. That word was even more precious than his first word “Dada” when he was about 8 months old. You expect your babies to talk and say their first word, usually “Dada”, but we were not sure if Keaton would ever be able to speak or move the right side of his body again, so those words will always be the most precious words he will ever say because those were the first words my sweet baby boy said that gave me hope of the possibility that Keaton was going to be okay.

Keaton spent Friday through Wednesday in the PICU, and he amazed the staff day by day with his accomplishments. Being in the PICU, makes you count your blessings and thank God for all the small things that happen along the way, like getting the Cervical spine collar off, removal of the tubes (feeding tube and urinary catheter), and most importantly getting to eat again. That is something that Keaton likes to do and that is EAT. Finally on Thursday, February 2, 2012, Keaton was moved out on the Children’s floor of Duke Hospital. He started working with speech, occupational and physical therapy staff. At first, Keaton was not sure if he would like these activities but he soon learned that it is just playing games and getting to do things like play ball, ride a tricycle, and bowl. He decided he liked being able to go to the PT/OT room to play (work) on therapy because they would let him ride a special bike to and from the room. It had a horn on the bike and Keaton would use it to scare the nurses on the unit. At first the neurosurgery team thought that Keaton would need inpatient rehab at a special children’s rehab in Charlotte, NC which is about 2 hours away. However, that was the thought on Friday, February 3, 2012, but when the team came back on Monday, February 6, 2012, they said he had made such progress that he could do outpatient rehab in our hometown of Durham, NC. That was another blessing from God. Keaton was discharged home on Tuesday, February 7, 2012, which was 11 days after the accident. We were all thrilled to take him home. His two brothers, ages 10 and 2, were the most excited to have their brother home from the hospital.

Unfortunately, Keaton had some setbacks and had to go to the ER on Saturday, February 25, 2012, for swelling to the head which was okay and ER just gave him a bigger helmet to wear. He had to wear the helmet at all times to protect his head. It was only off when he slept. Keaton had to go back to ER on Saturday, March 10, 2012, for swelling and lethargy which was due to his allergy medicine given for his cough and congestion. They stopped the medicine and said he would be okay. Then Keaton was back in the ER on Wednesday, March 14, 2012, for severe head swelling and pain. They determined that he would need a spinal tap to help drain some of the fluid in his brain which is called hydrocephalus. So Keaton had a spinal tap and was kept overnight for monitoring. Keaton returned home on Thursday, March 15, 2012, to rest and recuperate. However, on Friday, March 16, 2012, Keaton started to complain of severe headaches and began to vomit. He was unable to keep anything down and started to become pale and sweaty. He was looking very bad, so we rushed him back to the ER and by the time we got there Keaton was barely able to stay awake. They rushed him back and began giving him fluid and getting a stat head CT. The doctors determined that he had a CSF leak from the spinal tap and was severely dehydrated. They admitted him to the Children’s floor and had him lay flat for 48 hours in hopes that the leak would seal on its own. However, that was not the case and he had to have a blood patch on Monday, March 19, 2012. He was discharged the next day. They started a medicine called Diamox, a fluid pill to help with the swelling to his head, as well as the medicine Keppra which is given to prevent seizures. Keaton has been on this since his accident and thankfully he has not had a seizure yet. Keaton is a real trooper when it comes to taking his medicine.

Keaton continues to require speech therapy twice a week and will for some time. He also requires occupational therapy once a week to work on his fine motor skills and impulsivity. He had another surgery called a Cranioplasty (which is replacing the missing skull with a prosthetic brain piece) on June 26, 2012. He will continue to work with the rehab therapists to help get him back on track. Keaton returned to Westminster Preschool on Sept 5, 2012 to start his final year of preschool. He is excited about getting back to school and seeing his friends. Kaden, his younger brother, is also at Westminster and they enjoy seeing one another at school.

His brothers have also had a hard time and will need counseling to help get them past this traumatic event in their lives. Our three year old, Kaden, was there and saw everything that had to be done to keep Keaton alive until EMS arrived. He has nightmares and is acting out which are signs that he needs therapy as well. Our ten year old, Kyle, was at school at the time of the accident but still has issues especially seeing his brother and all that he has had to endure these last several months. It has affected him as well and he too will need therapy to come to terms with the accident.

So as you can see this has been a very difficult seven months and with the bills from the hospital (all the copays to the ER and inpatient copays), EMS, medicine copays, speech therapy copays , occupational therapy copays, and then having to miss time from work for both parents the bill amounts are quickly adding up. We appreciate our families; friends and coworkers that have helped support us during this difficult time in our lives. There have been many more people who have asked “what can I do”? Some have suggested that we hold a fundraiser to help us raise money to help with Keaton’s medical expenses. We are asking that you help support our little boy who has had a rough time but continues to fight every day in order to get back to the feisty little guy he was before his tragic accident on Friday, January 27, 2012. Thank you for anything that you are able to give to aid Keaton’s recovery. It is greatly appreciated. Thank you, The Nichols Family

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