By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, email@example.com
Fifty-five days after he was rushed to Riley Hospital for Children, near death from an attack of flesh-eating disease, Bryson Crenshaw victoriously rang the bell signifying the end to his inpatient treatment Wednesday.
Surrounded by his parents, Ben and Megan, and a team of Riley clinicians, 4-year-old Bryson meticulously placed his paper butterfly on the Riley rehab wall before ringing the bell – timidly at first, until his dad chimed in with a few tugs.
Bryson completed 3½ weeks of physical and occupational therapy on the inpatient rehab unit after a month of treatment in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit.
His mom has been by his side every step of the way, sleeping, showering, eating and praying within Riley’s walls, while his dad has been working and caring for Bryson’s older brother at the family’s home in Lafayette.
But together, they are taking their little boy home. Home to a feast prepared by Ben Crenshaw, a professional chef, and to a surprise reunion with Bryson’s brother, who left for school Wednesday not knowing that Bryson would be coming home that day.
“It’s a little surreal,” Megan Crenshaw said while packing up Bryson’s room Wednesday morning.
The past two months have been a blur for her and her husband, as their previously healthy son came perilously close to dying from necrotizing fasciitis, a rare bacterial infection that spreads quickly, eating away at the body's soft tissue, thus the term flesh-eating disease.
“It came out of nowhere,” she said after his diagnosis. “We thought he had the flu.”
When Tylenol failed to bring down his 104.5 temperature, they took him to IU Health Arnett Hospital in Lafayette, where doctors noticed swelling in his right leg, and tests revealed he likely had necrotizing fasciitis.
Accurate diagnosis, rapid antibiotic treatment and prompt surgery are vital to stopping the deadly infection.
Overnight, Bryson was transferred to Riley, and eventually his leg was amputated above the knee.
“It was life over limb,” his mom said.
An 11-year-old Florida boy died from the same infection Jan. 27.
Bryson, who celebrated his fourth birthday while at Riley, has been showered with gifts, cards and prayers from family, friends and fellow church members.
With his pint-sized walker and wheelchair, the boy who loves actor Jamie Foxx, Nerf gun fights, Nintendo Switch and LEGOs has been learning how to adjust to life with one leg, but that’s only temporary, says Riley rehab physician assistant Ben Schrock.
A custom prosthetic will eventually be designed for him, giving him the freedom to move more easily, Schrock said.
“He’s gonna be on the go. I think he will find a way to do everything he wants to do,” Schrock said, as Bryson wheeled himself back to his room to finish packing for home.
“He has done awesome in rehab. I know he’s been super excited to see his dog, Ace, and his brother. Those things have motivated him.”
Bryson will continue outpatient therapy in Lafayette but will return to Riley for follow-up appointments as he continues to heal.
“I’m ready to get him home and see how he does outside the hospital setting,” Megan said. “He has made a lot of progress. He’s rocking it.”
Maybe it’s his young age, but Bryson has literally been rolling with the hand dealt him, she said.
“He’s been asking a lot more questions about the infection,” Megan said, … “but he was excited to pick out colors for his custom wheelchair (yellow and blue, with LEGOs on the wheels).”
“I’m gonna be wheeling it,” Bryson said with a shy smile.
The custom chair will take about three months to design and build.
While his parents acknowledge being terrified and confused when their son was diagnosed with a disease they’d never heard of, they are trying to take their cues from him going forward.
And right now, he’s just eager to get home so he can see his dog, have a Nerf gun fight with his brother, and maybe watch one of his favorite Jamie Foxx movies.
“He is ready to bust out of here,” Megan said.
She and her husband are right behind him.
Photos by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out our previous story on Bryson here: Flesh-eating disease strikes 3-year-old