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Thumbs Up for Champion Jared

It was a father’s nightmare. Matthew Heuer looked across the farm field near their home in Leonard, N.D. The ATV lay still, its wheels pointed up to the evening sky.

“I just hoped Jared wasn’t under it,” he says, recalling Oct. 14, 2012. Matthew began the search for his 9-year-old son.

“I found him in a ditch 80 yards away. Facedown. Not moving,” he says, pausing. “But he was still breathing.”

A first responder himself, Matthew didn’t waste a minute. He called 911, then called home, instructing Nicholle to bring his emergency bag.

While waiting for the local ambulance, Matthew administered oxygen to Jared.

“I kept talking to him, trying to keep him awake,” says Matthew. “If he was awake, he was alive.”

Jared’s mom, his big sister Eleanor, and his beloved dog Gus stood quietly and watched.

“We knew it was serious,” says Nicholle. “All we could do was pray.”

Severe trauma

Sanford LifeFlight air ambulance landed in the field and rapidly transported Jared to Sanford Emergency Center in Fargo. Nicholle and Matthew arrived a half-hour later.

“I was so scared we were going to lose him,” says Nicholle. “I kept hoping we had really good doctors on our side.”

Jared’s injuries were extensive: eight broken ribs, bruised and collapsed lungs including three leaks, a fractured scapula and a lacerated liver. The 600-pound ATV had landed on Jared’s right chest.

That night a Sanford surgical team tried to repair the leaks in the lungs, but the damage was too much. Jared coded twice during surgery.

A link to life

An important medical device made a critical difference for Jared. Purchased with donations to Children’s Miracle Network, the oscillator ventilator helped Jared breathe when his own lungs were unable to sustain life.

The next 48 hours were touch and go. Family, friends and community dug deep, turning their grief into a rallying cry. They even wore handmade pins that said “Go Jared. We Believe.” The camouflage design honored Jared’s passion for hunting and fishing.

The capabilities at Sanford Children’s Hospital helped inspire the belief in Jared’s recovery:

  • An expert team including pediatric intensive care specialists, a heart surgeon, lung specialist, neuropsychologist and more.
  • Highly trained nurses in the Pediatric Intensive Care and Pediatrics Unit. “They were amazing,” says Nicholle. “You could tell they love what they do by how much they love their patients.”

A miracle and more

On Oct. 17, while still on life support in Pediatric Intensive Care, Jared underwent an exam in which a specialist inserted a tiny camera to view his lungs.

“By the grace of god, the largest leak in Jared’s right lung somehow plugged. Nobody can explain it,” says Nicholle. “I believe that miracle could never have happened without the oscillator ventilator keeping him alive.”

From then on Jared kept moving forward. With the help of Sanford Children’s respiratory therapists, he made the difficult transition from machine-assisted breathing to breathing on his own. In the days to come, pediatric physical and occupational therapists would help him regain strength and movement.

On Oct. 22, Matthew got a signal from Jared. Day and night the worried parents had been at their son’s bedside, talking to him and holding his hand. Then Matthew got the idea to move Jared’s thumb as if they were playing thumb wars. It was a game the father and son often played.

“I placed Jared’s thumb on mine, then I told him he’d won. He got a smirk on his face,” says Matthew. “That’s when he started moving his thumb on his own. He wanted to play again.”

Other types of play soon occupied Jared’s time. Donations to Children’s Miracle Network help ensure a bright, cheery playroom and access to several child life specialists.

Even when sick and injured, kids can still be kids.

Going home

After 17 days, Jared went home. Gus greeted him at the door and never stopped wagging his tail.

“That was an unforgettable day. Just seeing Jared walk to the pickup was incredible,” says Matthew. “If we lived anywhere else, I’m not sure we’d have our son. That’s the difference Sanford Children’s made for our family.”

Today Jared is back in school full time. A third-grader, he jokes that his favorite subject is dodge ball. He completed outpatient occupational and physical therapy and his lungs continue to heal. His health hasn’t quite reached 100 percent, but it’s getting close.

“It’s unbelievable when you consider how seriously injured he was,” says Nicholle. “He’s braver than he thinks and stronger than he realizes.”

Congratulations Jared, North Dakota’s 2013 Children’s Miracle Network Champion!

Posted Date: March 2013