Carter Williams was by all accounts a healthy, normal baby boy. His mom, Donica, admits her baby was a little on the fussy side.
“He had lots of outfits with crabs on them because he was so crabby,” she laughed. But other than that, nothing out of the ordinary.
When he was 3 ½ months old, Carter’s world turned upside down, and the lives of the entire family would be forever changed.
While taking a nap at the day care he and his big sister Presley attended, Carter stopped breathing.
“The doctors assumed he was without oxygen for about 20 minutes before they got him resuscitated. As a result, he ended up with severe hypoxic brain damage,” said Donica.
She said Carter spent a week at Children’s Hospital in Omaha before being released to go home with a life expectancy of four to six weeks.
He was having seizures and was taking several medications. He had a nasogastric tube for feeding, which was moved to his stomach when he got a little older. But that led to an infection, which required emergency surgery.
The weeks passed, and Carter continued to fight for life. In February 2007, Carter developed a bowel obstruction, and Donica was told he would likely live only another few days. Again she took her baby home, prepared for the worst.
“We were told to plan his funeral, and that is what we did. Five days later, my aunt was sitting here holding him and said she thought she felt him pass gas. I thought it was her imagination, but sure enough, his bowels moved.”
She said since that day, Carter has flourished. He has been seizure-free for 10 years, and now takes two medications -- one to relax his muscles and prevent spasms, and the other to help him sleep.
Carter is now in eighth grade at Gothenburg Public School.
“We have a wonderful school system, and our paraeducators are amazing,” said Donica. “The doctor that diagnosed him is baffled by how well he has done. We were told he would never see, hear, feel pain, walk or talk. He can’t walk and is nonverbal, but we know he feels pain and has some visual. He turns his head when he hears us talking.”
Earlier this year, Donica was convinced by friends to apply to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. She said she was surprised when just a couple of months later, she was notified that they had been selected and should start making plans.
“For those first few months and years, Presley kinda got ignored because Carter cried all the time and took so much of my time and energy,” said Donica. “We always promised her that someday we would take her to Disneyland. So for our Make-A-Wish trip, we chose a Disney cruise because we felt that would be calming for Carter.”
They will meet with the Make-A-Wish representatives Nov. 2 in Omaha, then on Nov. 3, fly to Florida, where they will board a ship in Port Canaveral destined for the Bahamas.
Donica said they are excited about the trip and are looking forward to putting Carter’s feet in the ocean.
The next struggle for Carter comes in January when he will have surgery to insert metal rods in his back. He has scoliosis, and Donica said as his back continues to curve, it will affect his organs. The surgery will help straighten his back by about 50%, she said.
“This life has just become my norm,” said Donica. “There is a lot of isolation, though. I can’t just pick up and go when I want, and that’s been hard for my friends to understand. But when Carter’s not here, I don’t know what to do with myself, because this is normal for me. Carter is truly a blessing in a lot of ways.”