Penelope's Healing Fund
My five-year-old daughter Penelope suffered a severe crush injury to her right foot. On a visit to her grandfather's house she fell and her leg ended up caught in the drive shaft of a tractor. It ripped the skin off the top of her foot, creating a wound that is 9 x 6 cm. She lost one toe (her pinkie toe), and almost lost the toe next to it.
We were there to work on our Volkswagen Vanagon Camper just before embarking on a tour of every state in the USA. Needless to say, it wasn't a great start to the trip.
I can tell you that I chased my daughter around every day of her life, carefully nudging her away from danger at every turn. I spent her entire infancy holding her hand on staircases, shooing her away from electrical outlets and discouraging her from climbing up tall bookcases or touching hot stoves. Ask anyone who actually knows me, and they would tell you that I am overly cautious with my daughter to a fault.
I have three kids. Penny is the first to have her pinky toe amputated, but not the first to suffer a painful accident. Accidents happen, that’s just life. It won’t discourage us from embarking on this road trip. The accident that occurred will only serve to make me more vigilant that I was before. I won’t shelter her to the point that she never gets to have any fun or take any calculated risks; we’ll just have a safety brief before we do things like this again.
Things like rollercoasters, skateboards, bumper cars, bicycles, petting dogs, catching spiders, climbing trees, climbing hills, crossing the street and all other inherently dangerous activities of which there are too many to list here. When this incident occurred, I was mortified. I was worried and scared for my daughter. All of the adults that were present and supervising her that day were. We all stayed cool under pressure, acted fast, removed her from any further danger and had emergency services there within minutes of it happening.
All of us shed tears, and spent the entire week trying to figure out how to deal with the aftermath. None of us enjoyed it. We just picked each other up and gave each other support and love. We grew closer as a family. This accident has nothing to do with our decision to travel. Anyone that takes the time to get to know us would know that we love our daughter and have provided her with a wonderful life filled with people who love and care for her. Our decision to take her out on the road wasn’t made lightly; it was carefully planned down to the last detail. That’s my girlfriend Maizy’s doing, she is an analytical Virgo accountant. She has a three ring binder bursting at the seams, filled with itineraries, budgets, curriculum plans and much more.
When the public service bill was pushing $400, we decided we could do better. We made a conscious decision to downsize, moved back to the city to live in a small apartment just a couple of miles from her work, and started saving all that money we were spending on that lavish lifestyle. We sold our gas guzzling SUV and started the arduous task of downsizing. It took us two years to get rid of almost all of our trivial belongings.
We aren’t planning on traveling forever, just as long as it takes us to get to every state. We want to make a truly educated decision on where we decide to set down roots.
While this accident was heartbreaking and hard to deal with, there is also a silver lining. She made friends with kids who are literally dying. A young girl with a lung disease just fell in love with her. That girl has been admitted to the hospital 47 times in her life, she is maybe twelve years old at the most, but she has one of the most genuine smiles you will ever see and makes me feel guilty for ever thinking that my life sucks.
Penny is already better off just for having known her. That is just one example, my daughter is going to learn more than she ever would spending a year commuting back and forth to a half a day of kindergarten five days a week. And I’m not knocking kindergarten or traditional schooling or people who live your basic normal everyday life.
Our family just understands how precious and fleeting life can be, and we want to enjoy it to the fullest, and show our daughter the possibilities. Maizy is a two-time breast cancer survivor and she quit her job to make this trip possible. I am a communications major with aspirations to become a freelance journalist. That being said, we put all our eggs in one basket and weren't planning on things like helicopter rides to the hospital after a traumatic accident with farm equipment.
We are now stuck in Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, and aren't being allowed to leave because our insurance (which expires at the end of the month) does not allow a child under 12 to have a wound vac in the home. We have been in the hospital for eight days now, and are facing a huge mountain of medical expenses as a result of this.
Maizy has spent her entire adult life since being diagnosed with cancer paying off all the medical bills that go with that. Long story short, we want to buy the wound vac outright, and leave the hospital. This is a shot in the dark, but at this point we are willing to try anything.
My daughter has already had four procedures, and faces three more before the treatment for this injury is complete. The insurance policy runs out in ten days, and we are facing a $7,000 deductible and 20% of the rest of the charges. The course of care is expected to last through at least the middle of June. The skin graft will be performed but we will have no insurance by then.
We've never asked for money before, and this may or may not work, but any amount you can find in your heart to donate to this cause would be immensely appreciated.
We want to show our daughter the USA and give her an education on the road before she goes into public schools in a year. This was a dream trip that started off with a nightmare. Hopefully we can learn from this and show other families with wanderlust that a life on the road can be a rich and rewarding experience
Penny's reaction to the knowledge that she lost her toe was slight shock and disbelief. She wondered aloud if it might grow back someday, she lamented the fact that she was going to be different from all the other kids, she cried and hit the bed in anger.
Removing the cast was difficult the last time. That was the day she saw her foot for the first time since the accident. This was also quite a shock to her, and she refused to look at it again after that initial view.
The doctor says the skin graft looks amazing and is progressing just the way it should be. Penny dances with her cane in the mirror, and has progressed from scooting around on her butt to hobbling around with that cane. She has been amazingly strong through it all and I don't think she will ever let losing her toe hinder her from doing anything she wants to try. I will try to instill that in her as well.
There is physical and emotional hurdles still to clear, probably for the rest of her life, because sadly, toes don't grow back.
Today in my communications class discussion I mentioned the amazing kindness and strength of my social network as one of the positive aspects of social media.
We are forever grateful to all of you. This money will go toward paying Penelope's medical bills, it will help soften the blow and lessen the financial impact this incident has had on our lives. I can't thank you all enough, and I don't know any other way to express my gratitude than to just spread kindness in turn.
To all my new family and friends in Missouri, thank you for your hospitality. For welcoming us in your homes, providing us with transportation, sharing your food, and loving us so well.
There is a dermagraft growing on her wound, which is by my best estimation covering about 75% of the top of her foot. We are so fortunate that this wasn't worse. Seeing it first hand like that made me realize how amazingly strong Penny is. If my foot looked like that I wouldn't be smiling as much as she is.
Penny is anxiously awaiting discharge, and fighting with every adult that comes in the room to remove the IV in her arm. They ask her questions, and she just says, "I want my nurse to take this out right now!" The girl has spunk and isn't afraid to speak up for herself.
The love, support and encouragement you all have provided us has been wonderful. It wasn't an easy decision to set up this campaign, and I was skeptical on whether or not it would work. But I was amazed at the amount of people willing to lend their support. You have all infected me with kindness. I hope to spread it to everyone I come across, a kindness virus.
Now we focus on finding a sense of normalcy. To get Penny back to just being a kid.
We spent the long weekend in the hospital, resting and healing. Tomorrow morning, the next procedure is scheduled, and we will probably leave the hospital on Thursday. I'm not entirely sure.
The nursing staff here is excellent, although for us as a family being micro-managed so much can get a little stifling. But we know its for good reasons so we politely answer all the questions about when she went to the bathroom and when did she brush her teeth and how much did she eat?
There is no privacy, every day we have a stream of constant visitors coming in the room, preparing medications, serving meals, housekeepers, doctors, care assistants, child life coordinators and volunteers of all sorts.
Through it all Penny keeps smiling, and sometimes she loses her cool and throws a tantrum or two, but she's five and that is to be expected. She has been in the hospital so long now I can't even remember the number of days we've been here. It's either 10 or 11, or maybe even 12!
This accident was really hard for me to accept, but it did serve to restore my faith in humanity. All of you have been a wonderful shoulder to lean on during this difficult time.
After that we just wait an additional seven days for the bio-mesh to do it's job. Once that good base is there on top of her foot, they'll perform a skin graft. If we didn't have the wound vac, we'd have to wait even longer for healing to occur.
The love we received during this ordeal has been wonderful. Family, fellow Marines, fellow bloggers, fellow traveling families and VW enthusiasts, old friends. Without all of you we couldn't of done it. We are forever grateful for your friendship and support.
Penny is in good spirits and receiving the best possible care. We look forward to getting our lives back to normal and all of you are a big part of that.