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Boy, 2, returns home after weeks in hospital

Sahrada Wellborn, 11, cuddles with her brother Neiko, 2, while mom Tiffany Oakes removes Neiko’s “boots” that keep his feet from bending downward. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Sahrada Wellborn, 11, cuddles with her brother Neiko, 2, while mom Tiffany Oakes removes Neiko’s “boots” that keep his feet from bending downward. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

Lasting impact of mower accident unclear

WENATCHEE – Neiko Wellborn made up a song Wednesday as he painted a choo-choo train in his coloring book. His medicine makes him sweaty, sending his black hair into spikes that frame his big brown eyes.

He eats fruit snacks, holds his dad’s hand and plays peek-a-boo with his sisters. He doesn’t want to go back to the hospital.

The East Wenatchee 2-year-old suffered serious foot and leg injuries in a May 31 lawn mower accident. He got to go home Tuesday for the first time since his accident.

His parents, Tiffany Oakes and Adam Wellborn, have been looking for an apartment where the family can start a new life. After spending a month and a half in the hospital, returning to the scene of the accident has been rough. They went back to Seattle Children’s Hospital for a checkup Friday. They still are waiting to hear if upcoming appointments will be in Seattle or Spokane.

On Friday they learned Neiko will have to return to Children’s in two to three weeks for surgery on his left foot and ankle.

“At that point they’re gonna take the pins out” of that foot, Oakes said Saturday morning. Doctors also will X-ray his foot and assess how it’s healing.

Whether the boy will grow up with both his legs, or how often he’ll have to get surgeries and checkups, no one really knows. Amputation of the left foot is still a very real possibility, Adam Wellborn said.

“Surprisingly, he understands,” he said of Neiko. “We’ve been talking to him. He knows. He senses it. He’s already said he wants a ‘Transformers’ leg.”

For now, Oakes says the important thing is to make sure Neiko and the family are healing, physically and spiritually.

Neiko’s grandpa, who was driving the lawn mower, has been dealing with his grief privately, Adam Wellborn said. He’s been working on projects around the house to keep busy. The family worries about him.

Neiko’s parents plan to start counseling for themselves and the kids as soon as possible. They’re hoping he will only need a couple of hospital trips a month.

It will be another eight to 12 weeks before he can possibly put weight on his legs. Until then, he’s got his trusty wagon that doubles as his bed and wheelchair. He shares it with his stuffed monkey, George, who also has serious leg injuries.

On Wednesday, Neiko got to take the plastic boot off his right foot for awhile. The skin grafts are still healing, but he’s able to roll around, play catch and wrestle a bit with his sisters, Taleah, 4, and Sahrada, 11. He likes to give kisses whenever family members get “boo-boos.”

He has a hard time sitting up, but he’s happy to share his juice and Spiderman fruit snacks with whoever’s nearby. He’s off his hospital diet, but he can’t have chocolate or caffeine, which would impede the healing of the blood vessels in his legs.

The family is still reeling from the outpouring of well-wishes and donations from individuals and businesses from around the world, Adam Wellborn said, especially in the Wenatchee Valley. As of Friday, the family has received about $5,000 in donations.

“I just want to make sure the community knows how thankful we are,” he said.


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