Taylor Sanders was not expected to live.
His liver, kidneys and other vital organs were forced up into his chest in a horrible car accident that happened when his father swerved to avoid a deer.
Taylor, who was 5 at the time, was airlifted from near his home in Albany to Children’s Hospital, Navicent Health, in Macon.
His injuries were “not compatible with life” when he arrived by helicopter Sept. 20, said Dr. Eric Long, a trauma surgeon.
The boy had at least 10 potentially fatal conditions, but he beat the odds and will be released from the hospital this week.
“It is very safe to say that Taylor, without a doubt, is a miracle,” said Long, who acknowledged the whole medical team during a ceremony Wednesday morning celebrating Taylor’s recovery. “It was very hard, very scary, because he’s defied the odds at every juncture of his care.”
His parents, Don and Wendy Sanders, of Albany, started fervently praying in the hours after they crashed. Wendy’s father, a minister, anointed the child with oil.
“When we turned it over to God and just prayed about it, you know, we actually started seeing changes,” Don Sanders said. “To be able to see that, realize our son is covered by angels, that was a graceful thing to witness.”
Nurses and other caregivers joined in prayer, they said.
“That let us know that we had faith and hope,” Wendy Sanders said.
Taylor, who was sedated through his 6th birthday, was showered with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys, clothes, accessories and a cake as those who cared for him packed the lobby of the Children’s Hospital on Wednesday.
Many teared up as hospital staff detailed his tenuous condition.
“Many times I’d leave here and I’d think, ‘Taylor’s not going to make it through the night,’” said Rebecca Cogburn, director of pediatric critical care. “Then I’d get in the next morning, and we’d have a whole new set of challenges.”
Taylor was in a booster seat when the family went off the road and down an embankment. The lap band tightened around his small frame at the point of impact.
“As far as we can tell, he was properly restrained,” Long said.
One of the boy’s kidneys was destroyed, and staff went to great lengths to administer dialysis.
Dr. Ihab Zaggout, who has a 5-year-old child, normally does not treat children. He answered the call when Taylor went into renal failure and was too critical to be transferred.
“The minute I saw Taylor, I could not say no. I just saw my kid in Taylor,” said Zaggout, his voice cracking with emotion.
Many workers went the extra mile, including Kelvin Sneed, who drove all the way to Atlanta to meet a plane delivering a pediatric filter for the dialysis machine.
“I was just thinking about my own child and making sure the patient had everything he needed to get well,” Sneed said.
The whole team posed for pictures with Taylor, who was a little shy with all the attention.
“He’s our heart,” said nurse Tammy Bache, who was holding Taylor’s little brother Bryson during the ceremony. “You come in here and see him near death and you see him smile or give a high five, and he makes everything we do worth it.”
Navicent Health has nominated Taylor to be Georgia’s Miracle Child for the Children’s Miracle Network.
Even if he does not receive state recognition, he will always be Navicent’s Miracle Child, hospital CEO Ninfa Saunders said.
Taylor’s mother has a bit of advice for other parents of critically sick or injured children.
“You’ve got to have faith. Pray, hold on. Don’t never give up,” said Wendy Taylor, who felt pampered by staff as she recovered from her own foot injury from the crash.
She started crying when talking about the bond her son developed with his surgeon.
“When Taylor told Dr. Long, ‘You’re my friend now,’ that really just made me happy,” she said.
Taylor helped cut the Ninja Turtle cake and then took off with a piece.
He headed directly to Long, who was in the middle of media interviews.
“This is the best birthday gift, Christmas, Thanksgiving I could ever wish for,” his mother said.
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.