Thousands of Tennessee Valley residents participated in, or watched the 2011 Extreme Home Makeover in Rossville, Georgia.
Michael and Cindy Sharrock’s then 8-year-old son Patrick was born with brittle bone disease. In the old house, he struggled to get through narrow doorways in his wheelchair. Bathroom facilities were not handicap-accessible. Tripping hazards were everywhere. Light switches, sinks and shelves were far beyond his reach. During his short life, Patrick had broken more than sixty bones.
During the incredible one-week rebuild, the old home was demolished and a modern 3,000 square foot went up in its place.
More importantly, Patrick now had plenty of space to navigate, a room in which to study, and an indoor therapy pool. For more than four years, life was good.
Then, earlier this month something went wrong. Cindy woke up one morning to an unusual sound: silence. Patrick was not scooting through the house. She found him on his bed, unable to move. He told her something must have happened in his sleep. He was in pain, unable to get into his wheelchair.
After rushing him to the hospital, it was determined Patrick had a seizure overnight. In his fragile state, any sudden movement can result in broken bones. He had broken both legs, several ribs and a shoulder. Local doctors made the decision to send him to a children’s hospital in Lexington, Kentucky which was better equipped to treat him.
Thus began a two-week journey that would take this family through a roller coaster of emotions. What started as a mission to heal Patrick’s broken bones became a life-and-death battle. X-rays revealed spots on his lungs. As Patrick struggled to breathe, doctors told the family he had a collapsed lung. He was put on oxygen, but Patrick told the doctors it was not enough. He was sedated in an effort to ease his pain, and to buy some time. As his heart began to weaken, he was put on a respirator.
Doctors called in the Sharrocks and told them to prepare for the worst. “It’s time to think about end-of-life care,” they were told. “There’s no way Patrick can endure surgery. His body just can’t take it.”
Two days later, according to Patrick's parents, they witnessed an astounding turnaround. “They were doing a cardiogram,” Michael said. “I’m nosy, so I went in to watch. During the scan, one of the doctors said that his heart is starting to work again, almost getting back to normal. The doctor kept saying, this does not happen. This does not happen.”
Cindy said, “The doctors were just standing there in amazement. I said to myself, I’m not going to cry. I’ve seen this before. This is so Patrick. When he was born, we were told he would never make it. They said he would not leave the hospital alive. And today he’s 14!”
In fact, Thanksgiving day is Patrick Sharrock’s 14th birthday. Two weeks ago, they were told he would not live to see it. Even as he improved, the family expected to spend the holidays in the hospital. They were thrilled to be able to return early this week.
As Patrick enjoys his return home, his quick wit is alive and well. “What do you want to say to the people who’ve been praying for you?” I asked. “Tell ’em I didn’t die!” he said with a big smile. “I was under sedation for a while, and then I woke up, looked around and said… what the heck happened?” Turning serious for a brief moment, he added, “I’m thankful to have so many friends, and I get to be home for my Thanksgiving birthday. The doctors and nurses gave me VIP treatment, and it was great knowing everyone was thinking about me.”
Patrick reads constantly, and Robin Williams is his comedy hero. “He has a lot of Robin in him,” Cindy said. “You never know what he’s going to say.”
“He’s always been such a strong spirit,” Cindy said. “I think they underestimated his will to live. When he puts his mind to doing something, it’s going to happen. That’s just Patrick!”
The family welcomes any donations to help with medical expenses at the Patrick Sharrock Benefit Fund, at First Volunteer Bank in Chattanooga.
For more of David Carroll's personal reflections on Patrick's Thanksgiving birthday, click here.