By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
There were questions about whether 3-year-old Reagan Whitson would keep her foot after an accident with a lawn mower in March sheared off 90 percent of her calf and 75 percent of her heel. Then there were questions about whether she would ever walk normally again after surgeries that had never been done before on a person so little.
But about 5 p.m. Saturday, she and her family appeared after a crowd of nearly 150 had gathered for a fundraiser at the Lions Club Park Senior Center, and she ran up to the door. She saw all eyes on her and ran right back to her family before the applause started. But after she got used to the crowd, she ran everywhere she went.
The family has insurance, and her mother Nora's company, the furniture manufacturer USA Capital, kept paying her through all her absences. Reagan's father, Clayton, is a landscaper. But there are still a lot of expenses with child care, physical therapy and other things left to go, so the people at the senior center wanted to put on a benefit. They sold about 300 tickets at $12.50 each for an evening that included a barbecue dinner by Big Hoss Bar-B-Que and Catering, a silent auction, a live auction and a dance with the Paladin Band.
"This has brought this community together," said Debbie Edwards, director of the Lions Club and Bob Gilmore senior centers. "Reagan's grandmother and great aunt are members here, and the center sponsored the event. This is a young working family, and they need help in taking care of a special-needs child. People were sympathetic, but you can only use so many teddy bears.
"They need prayers as much as anything."
In the long path to recovery, teams led by Dr. Raman Mahabir, an assistant professor of surgery at Texas A&M Health Science Center, transplanted a muscle from the little girl's back to her leg, reconnecting nerves and veins, and now most feeling is restored. Reconstruction also included many skin grafts.
"She still crawls a lot, and she still needs this special boot," said her mother. "The achilles tendon was cut, and we still don't know whether it's going to hold. They told us this kind of thing takes many months of recovery in an older person, but you can see how far she's come already. It's just that she's so small, and the microsurgery was so microscopic."
The family is Central Texas born and bred. Reagan's grandfather, Bob Whitson, who lives in Killeen with Judy, his wife of 38 years, said he has always wanted the family to live close by.
"We pretty much take care of our own, too," he said, "but this bowled us over. So many people called, but I still could hardly talk the next day."
Edwards said her staff assistant Barbara Weaver deserved much credit for pulling the evening together. She also wanted to thank "kitchen angels" Gisela Parker, Beverly Crockett, Arnetta White, Irene Lebinson, Dora Dodson and Myrna Martinez, and Walter Brown of Big Hoss Barbecue. Others who helped were Rudy Nunez, James Noack, Shanna Powell, Frank Weaver, Mary Dockery, Bill Daniel, Georgia Lane, Bob Todd and Margo Coster. A few are staff, but most are volunteers and members of the centers.
Account No. 07501141 has been opened for the family at Texas Star Bank, in temporary quarters at 110 E. Farm Road 2410 in Harker Heights while a permanent building is under construction.
Reagan has a 4-year-old brother, Sam, who was playing with her on the day of the accident. Already seemingly sold on his grandfather's idea of "taking care of our own," when Meagan got hurt, he ran into the house and emerged with Band-Aids and towels.
That's bound to be a healing part of the story for decades to come.
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7557.