Most parents can enjoy watching their children run, jump and play without the fear of broken bones, but that’s not the case for Mike and Ashlyn Barnette, whose daughter Finnley, 3, and son Fritch, 1, have osteogenisis imperfecta, a genetic mutation commonly known as brittle bone disease.
Ashlyn says Finnley’s condition appears to be less severe than her brother’s, but she has already fractured her leg and foot.
Fritch had his first fracture at nine months old and has since fractured his other leg, a foot and four ribs.
His fractures were not the result of ordinary child’s play that comes with occasional trips and falls; his injuries occurred while he was simply standing.
And just four days before Christmas things turned more serious when Fritch fell off his parents’ bed, which had been lowered to the ground for safety months prior.
“After the fall, he was not acting like himself and started throwing up,” Ashlyn said. “We immediately took him to the emergency room in Stephenville where he received a CT scan that showed a large brain bleed.”
Fritch was transported by air to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth where things took a turn for the worse.
“Fritch’s eyes stopped responding to light and his arms began to stop working properly,” Ashlyn said. “They told us there wasn’t enough time for another CT scan and rushed him into brain surgery. They let us know all the high risks that were involved, a chance he wouldn’t even make it and, if he did, a list of things that could be wrong including brain damage.”
The news sent the couple to their knees.
“We gathered in a room with family and spent the next two hours while he was in surgery crying out to God for mercy on behalf of our little boy,” she said. “We knew God had the final word, He knows Fritch by name and loves him more than we can even imagine and if it was His will He would save his life.”
Fritch had severed an artery inside his skull and it was bleeding, adding pressure to his brain and causing his tiny body to shut down.
Once surgery was complete the doctor had positive news for the family.
“Fritch was starting to respond to light and his arms were beginning to work again,” Ashlyn said. “We were relieved surgery was over but we knew it would be a long road to recovery. Not knowing what to expect or what our future holds we were overwhelmed, but knew that the Lord would carry us though.”
Fritch remained in ICU for the next 12 hours, then was moved to a room where he stayed for six days.
“It was so hard to see him in pain but we rejoiced in every positive sign that we saw,” she said. “Him opening his eyes and starting to recognize people, to being able to swallow and then to start saying words, we knew it was a miracle. The doctor told us that he was just minutes from death. We are so thankful that God had other plans and gave us Fritch twice.”
The family is now home and on the road to recovery.
Fritch is in physical therapy and began walking on his own last week. He is even starting to potty train.
As the family works to recover from the ordeal - with Mike returning to his job at Tarleton State University and Ashlyn taking care of the kids - Jeff and Jodi Weyers, owners of Beans and Franks, have organized a blood drive and fundraiser on Friday, Feb. 9, at the restaurant.
“One hundred percent of sales from food and drink that day will go to the Barnette family,” Jodi said. “We will also have a silent auction and people can make donations.”
Carter BloodCare will also be at Beans and Franks from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
“Our life still isn't back to normal and we know he will have to live life a little differently but we know that he has a story to tell,” Ashlyn said. “We don’t ask ‘why,’ but we ask ‘what?’ What is the Lord going to do through him and his story?”