BETHANY, Okla. – After a car crash nearly claimed his life, a nine-year-old Altus boy is the first child to receive a breathing device made famous by actor Christopher Reeve.
“Within that 10 minutes, my whole life changed,” said Amber Murphy. “I felt like he was dead.”
November 27, 2017 is a day Amber and Daron Murphy will never forget. They were in the car with Daron’s siblings after school when they were hit by another driver.
The moments after that were a blur.
The other two children suffered injuries that were less severe, but Daron was rushed to OU Medical Center with a broken back and spinal cord injury.
Doctors saw the severity of his injuries but also something else.
“You knew that he was going to get through this,” said Dr. Roxie Albrecht with OU Medicine.
Those who suffer high spinal cord injuries like Daron can lose control of diaphram breathing and depend on respiratory assistance, like a ventilator.
While they are beneficial, they are difficult to tote around and don’t allow patients to breathe naturally.
“It’s putting the air in, and our breathing is typically done where we draw the air in, it’s kind of a negative air flow,” said Dr. Michael Johnson of The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital
Doctors suggested he use a diaphragmatic pacer instead, the same pacer used by Reeve. Only About 200 of them have been implemented worldwide and very few of them on children.
After some debate on putting him through another surgery, the family decided to move forward.
“Daron was on board with it too, said he agreed to it and that’s something he wanted for his life,” Amber said.
It’s been a process at the Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital, but the nine-year-old has responded well to the treatment.
“Telling us what he felt and what was going to work for him,” said Tami McMichael of The Children’s Center
He’s been off the ventilator since June 2, and the best news is he gets to go home to his family next week.
“My son is still there,” Amber said. “His brain is still there. His personality is still there, and that came because everyone took steps to keep him a kid and that means the world to us. That could never be replaced.”
“God did this and He saved my life,” Daron said.
The pacer system has been in development since 2002 but was in development for 20 years prior to that.