HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – A little boy who was dead for 20 minutes was reunited with first responders from the Harris County Emergency Corps and Little York Fire Department who saved him.
The meeting Saturday afternoon was a reunion six months in the making, but it would take a lifetime to know what to say.
“How do you say thank you to the people who saved your son’s life and brought him back to you?” asked Kristy Heckendorn.
Her son, Braden Heckendorn, was just 7 years old when he was shot in the heart with a pellet gun that accidentally went off while he was playing with his brother.
“It put a hole about that big into his heart,” said Heckendorn, holding up the width of her pinky finger. “He just started pouring out blood and by the time he went into my mom’s house, he went into cardiac arrest.”
Braden will tell you himself: “I was dead.”
Until the Harris County first responders gathered around him Saturday afternoon, restarted his heart and got him breathing. Surgeons fixed the hole in his heart. But without oxygen for so long, it was still a challenging recovery.
Through a stroke, seizures and brain swelling, his mom said, “He’s just done excellent. He’s surpassed every goal they had for him.”
Braden wasn’t expected to talk for a year, but just four months in, Heckendorn said, “He started talking, he told us he wanted to eat at Texas Roadhouse for lunch. So we went to Texas Roadhouse.” “No for dinner,” interrupted Braden. “For dinner, I’m sorry, for dinner,” his mother corrected.
On Saturday, he showed off even more new strides, taking a few steps, with his father’s help. The emergency workers watching on know how rare this recovery is. They say Braden’s kind of injury has about a 4 percent survival rate.
“It’s a real honor and privilege to have been there for y’all and to be able to see something as miraculous as this,” said Ryan O’Daniel, of the Harris County Emergency Corps.
As for his family, they’ll say the only thing they can.
“Thank you for not giving up,” said Heckendorn, while watching their living miracle grow stronger every day.
One bystander asked, “Can you give me a high 5?” When he did, Kristy said with a smile, “See, he couldn’t do that like a week ago. It’s coming back. It’s coming back.”