Jenna and Skyler Edwards believe in positive thinking.
That’s why their 1-year-old son, James, is surrounded by a sea of green in his hospital room, a reflection of the Florida boy’s obsession with the Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles. The couple wants their son to see what he loves when he wakes up.
“It’s very cheerful in there,” says mom Jenna Edwards, referring to handmade signs and a streamer stringing together a series of Ninja Turtle face masks. Stuffed turtle animals are everywhere, including on his bed, where they prop up the boy's arms and legs.
The Edwards family is also leaning on the thoughts and prayers that have poured in from thousands of Facebook users expressing concern for James, who remains in critical condition after a near-drowning accident in their home last week.
The family initially set up a Facebook page, “Turtle Power for James Edwards,” as a way to relay medical updates to friends and extended family. Within several days of it going up last Sunday, the page had racked up more than 12,000 likes.
“It’s really nice how much people who don’t know us are really caring and thinking of us, and thinking of our son, and really trying to lift you up with the power of prayer and positive thinking,” Edwards said. “We’ve been told not such great things, but he’s making progress and we’d like to think it’s because of all the positivity that he’s received and that he’s really on a lot of people’s minds. It’s nice to think these strangers are thinking of our little boy.”
James landed in the hospital last Friday, a day after his mother gave birth to his baby brother. He'd been at home, where he was being watched by a relative, when he slipped away and fell into the family pool.
His parents say they still don't know all the full details “because we’re still kind of in our recovery mode right now.” They stress that what matters is their son’s recovery — and that’s where social media support has proven crucial.
“What’s really been amazing is to see people sharing stories that they’ve been in similar situations. They’re really giving us hope when we don’t have any,” Edwards said. “We keep seeing that people have been here and they’ve been told the worst and have come out on top. We know that’s going to be us because we have all this positivity around us.”
Physicians initially placed James into a medically-induced coma. They also put him in a state of monitored hypothermia, dropping the temperature of his body to slow down the rate of any brain cell loss, said Jennifer Smith, a spokeswoman for the Broward Health hospital treating the toddler. James has been taken out of the coma, but continues to be sedated while doctors ease him back into consciousness.
Status updates on the couple's Facebook page have illustrated the ups and downs experienced daily, if not hourly, by the family.
“It's been a while because I couldn't find he words to say that his CT results came in yesterday and did show there is damage to the brain. How much there is is still unknown,” Edwards said in a post Wednesday.
And then, several hours later: “James had a spot EEG today and still showed movement. We are waiting for him to be able to get an MRI to give us a better idea of his brain function."
Edwards said she and her husband have been encouraged by the fact that James has been opening his eyes and moving his hands and feet since coming out of the coma. They also have been heartened by comforting stories on their Facebook page, where users not only post prayers, but pictures of themselves in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle t-shirts, costumes or cartoon screen-grabs.
Skyler Edwards said he has found the outpouring of social media support especially "astonishing" since he’s not a Facebook user. “To see how many people care gives us hope. We believe in the power of prayer, and more and more people are praying for James and keeping him in their thoughts," he said.
"We just ask everyone to keep praying for James and keep him in his thoughts," Jenna Edwards said. "We know there’s power in prayer and that he’ll be walking out of the hospital soon."