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Neighborhood rallies around 4-year-old healing from accident

By HOWARD DUKESMay 12, 2017

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Several years ago Chris Haw toured the 700 block of North Cottage Grove Avenue and knew it was the place where he wanted to live with his family while he pursued his doctoral studies at the University of Notre Dame.

Victorian houses with large trees lined the street. Chris and his wife Cassie found a lovely home with a big porch and hardwood floors right in the middle of the block. What made the neighborhood even more attractive, the couple says, were the neighbors.

“Chris was driving through the neighborhood looking at the houses — I was back in New Jersey — and he said there were crowds of children playing and that really appealed to us,” Cassie Haw said. “We liked the idea that there were lots of kids for our children to play with.”

The Haws, who were moving from Camden, N.J., just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, have two children — 7-year-old son, Simon and 4-year-old daughter, Amelia, who often goes by Millie. They fell in love with the neighborhood and its Near Northwest Neighborhood Association because it reminded Chris of a similar agency he worked for in Jersey. “So when we decided to move we wanted to move (to) neighborhoods in need or neighborhoods in transition,” he added.

The Haws had found what they wanted, but had little idea at the time just how big of a role their neighbors would play in their lives during their unimaginable hours of need.

March 24 yielded a gorgeous early Friday evening, and the Haws were preparing food at their home to take to a potluck dinner hosted by a neighbor.

“It was the first beautiful day of the year,” Cassie Haw recalls. “It was about 75 degrees and there was a neighborhood potluck that we have about once a month.”

Simon wanted go to the neighbor’s house and play with friends, so as the couple worked to finish the meal, their son crossed the street. Cassie said that the street is very active with children running back and forth and both Simon and Millie had successfully crossed the street previously. So when Millie asked if she could follow her brother, her parents approved and reminded her to look both ways before crossing.

As she attempted to cross Cottage Grove Avenue, Millie was struck by a car. Just like that, the 4-year-old girl was suffering a life-threatening head injury in addition to multiple cuts and bruises.

In retrospect, Cassie and Chris both said that it was their mistake.

“I think that is something that we got lax about,” Cassie said of their daughter crossing the street. “She should not have been running across the street. “In this case because she is doing so well (now), we can say that this is a warning and an opportunity to really learn from this mistake. It would have been obviously so much harder had it not ended so well.”

At the time, it did not appear that it would end well, the couple and neighbors say.,

Andre Stoner, a neighbor who was on his way to the potluck when the accident happened, said that he was walking in the area of Lindsey Street and Cottage Grove when there was suddenly a big commotion.

“I saw Chris and there was blood on his T-shirt and I (asked) what happened and he said that Amelia had been hit,” Stoner said. “I could see she was badly hurt.”

The parents tended to their daughter until paramedics arrived and rushed Millie to the hospital. Stoner said neighbors walking to the potluck prayed while they came outside to find out what happened. Several neighbors, including Stoner’s wife, went to the hospital to offer their support.

Doctors and nurses at Memorial were able to stabilize Millie enough so that she could be flown to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis for more extensive treatment. But she was still in great danger, the couple said. Doctors told the couple that Millie suffered diffuse axonal injury, which is a kind of traumatic acceleration/deceleration injury that people often suffer in serious car accidents and can result in the injured person being in a persistent vegetative state, Chris said.

Millie remained mostly unconscious for more than a week and the Haws said they had no idea if she would be able to talk if she did wake up. Progress moved painfully slow.

“She opened her eyes and started looking at us, but she was not tracking with us,” Cassie explained. “The next day she started tracking us with her eyes and then a couple of days later she gave her first smile.

“That was week two. From then on every day and then moving to every six hours there was improvement.”

The Haws’ neighbors on Cushing Street, the Near Northwest Neighborhood Association staff and Chris’ colleagues at Notre Dame did whatever they could in the form of providing food, companionship and financial support to the Haws, Chris said.

Stoner noted that Chris’ mother came to stay with Simon for the month while his parents were in Indianapolis with Millie. The entire neighborhood rallied around the family. Neighbors made food for the family while others took trips to Riley to comfort Chris and Cassie and to check on Millie.

Stoner said that his family shares a weekly meal with the Haws and they continued doing that with Simon.

“We wanted to keep with that to keep his life normal,” Stoner said. Stoner and his son also took Simon, who loves birds, bird watching at Notre Dame.

Joy Moore, the neighbor who was hosting the March 24 potluck helped organize another potluck on April 9 that raised money for the family.

“At first it didn’t seem like there was anything we could do except pray and tell them that we were thinking about them,” Moore said. “But then I was speaking with some other neighborhood moms at The Local Cup (coffee shop) and we decided to do the neighborhood potluck again in honor of her and to raise money to cover incidentals.”

Millie is home now, and continues to improve. She still takes physical therapy to improve her strength and motor skills. The entire family is also working to heal emotionally.

Chris Haw said that they talk about the incident among each other and with friends as a way to deal with any feelings of guilt that they may have, and also plan to seek counseling at some point.

The parents have also talked to Simon, Cassie Haw added.

“We had been concerned that he might feel this was his fault, and in the hospital he said he really wished that he had crossed the street with her,” Cassie said. “We were really grateful that he verbalized that because then we could refer to it and say, ‘It was not your fault. You did nothing wrong.’”

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Source: South Bend Tribune, http://bit.ly/2qxh6Ln

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Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com

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