The young couple left the Ethiopian orphanage and returned to Oxford, Mich. on April 4 with their newly adopted 7 month-old son, Taye. For Benjamin and Joanna McKinney, this was their second trip to Africa for an adoption. Like Taye, their son Mikias, age 2, was also adopted from an Ethiopian orphanage. After months of planning and traveling thousands of miles, they thought their long journey was coming to a close. However, a life-threatening accident only 11 days later, extended it.
Recalls Joanna McKinney, "April 15 is a day we will never forget."
One moment little Taye was on the bed, the next he wasn't. "He rolled off the bed. It didn't look that severe. A bang on the head," explains Benjamin McKinney. He picked him up and held the infant. Taye cried for a few minutes and fell asleep.
Benjamin became concerned when his infant son's sleep seemed so deep. This was very unusual, because Taye was having a hard time falling asleep since arriving in Michigan. Fearing a concussion, he took him to their pediatrician. When Taye did wake up he began vomiting.
At the pediatrician's office, Taye was more alert and appeared much better, however, the pediatrician urged Benjamin to carefully monitor him.
After returning home, Benjamin noticed Taye lapsing back into a deep sleep. His unresponsiveness alarmed Benjamin. So much so, that he drove him to the Emergency Center at Beaumont Hospital in Troy.
The emergency medicine specialists ordered a CT scan. Recalls Benjamin McKinney, "After the head scan, everything changed. The doctors told us this was a huge emergency. The CT showed a large blood clot. They indicated he needed brain surgery as soon as possible and that a helicopter would transport him to Beaumont in Royal Oak, a level 1 trauma center. This was the worst feeling Joanna and I have had in our entire lives. As we waited for the helicopter and prayed over Taye, my dad, a retired minister, baptized him."
Back at Royal Oak, Karol Zakalik, M.D., pediatric neurosurgeon with Beaumont Children's Hospital, was in his office wrapping up the day. Immediately after receiving a call about Taye, he began preparing for the arrival of an infant with a massive brain bleed. The Troy EC team sent him the CT scan electronically. After a quick review, he had an operating room ready for Taye's arrival.
Little Taye was clinging to life with a blood clot under the skull called an epidural hematoma. These types of clots can result in death by pushing the brain against the skull. They are usually caused by a fracture and a bleeding blood vessel. This same condition resulted in the death of actress Natasha Richardson in March.
As soon as the chopper touched down, the baby was rolled into the Emergency Center and then into an operating room where a surgical team was waiting.
"His brain was herniating, a process were the brain is about to die," explains Dr. Zakalik. "The epidural hematoma creates massive pressure on the brain. This pressure pinches off arteries and blood flow. Little Taye actually suffered a stroke."
A short time later, Dr. Zakalik performed a craniotomy- a procedure where a piece of skull is removed- allowing him to remove the clot.
Since the emergency surgery in April, Taye, now 1, has had a second surgery to reattach the piece of skull removed on the day of his accident. He's spent many hours in physical and occupational therapy at the Beaumont Health Center. Dr. Zakalik, the McKinneys and a team of Beaumont specialists are amazed at his progress.
"Miraculously, Taye's deficiencies are relatively minor with better than expected results," says Dr. Zakalik. "He's doing well and now does most things typical one-year-olds do."
The McKinneys understand they still have a journey ahead of them, but they're appreciative for the many hands- those of doctors, nurses and therapists- that have touched Taye on his road to recovery.