Thursday, February 21, 2013

For the Love of a Stranger's Child

If you are tech savvy enough to read this blog, then you have been around the Internet enough to know that there is no shortage of appeals out there to help sick children. Unfortunately, you have to sift through a lot of appeals for kids who don’t even exist to get to the real ones. For some reason that will forever elude me, weirdoes who have nothing better to do with their time create fake children with fake illnesses, then see how far and wide their rumor can spread through the Internet.
But today I’m not going to talk about the weirdoes. Today I’m here to talk about a real-live child with a real-live situation. His name is Tripp Halstead, and he has stolen my heart.

I mean, seriously. Look at that smile.
Let me make a few things clear first. I have never met Tripp or anyone related to him. Not his parents, or grandparents, or aunt's boyfriend's sister's gardener's barber's mechanic. His case came to my attention through a friend on Facebook. I have never directly communicated with anyone in his inner circle, aside from leaving words of encouragement for his parents on their Facebook page - which is also where I got the pictures for this post. A friend of the Halsteads set up the page as a way to keep friends and family apprised of Tripp’s condition in the days following the accident that left him in his current condition. I’m sure they had no idea that hundreds of thousands of people around the world would sign on to join them on their nightmare journey.
Just a few short months ago, Tripp Halstead was a typical healthy two-year old: curious, energetic, and generally happy. An only child, he kept his doting parents, Bill and Stacy, busy day and night, filling their home with  giggles, mischief, and “booms” (his word for fist bumps).
Toddlers have the curious habit of demanding to watch the same DVD over and over (and over) again. For Tripp that movie was Cars, which has become a recurring theme on his status page. In fact, a week after his accident, Tripp even got some love from the stars who voice the two main characters: Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) left him a voicemail, and Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) send him a get-well Tweet. So what happened to bring this happy-go-lucky little guy so much attention?   
One beautiful day in late October, Tripp was cheerily playing outside with his friends at daycare. Out of nowhere, a sudden gust of wind blew through the playground and knocked a large limb from a tree. Before anyone could react to the sound of the branch snapping, Tripp had taken a direct hit to the head by the heavy limb. In that single moment, a freak accident changed the world for little Tripp and his family.
Tripp sustained a traumatic brain injury from the accident. In the hours following his accident, doctors could not assure his parents that he would even survive. If you have ever had a loved one with a traumatic brain injury, you know the drill: surgery upon surgery, setback after setback, and the desperate hope that the patient will cheat death as the doctors prepare you to say your goodbyes.
As the hours following Tripp’s accident stretched into days, Tripp’s condition stabilized. He seemed to have gotten through the first critical phase: basic survival. Only then were Bill and Stacy able to entertain the desperate hope that Tripp was still “in there” somewhere and would someday go back to delighting them with his cheerful two-year-old antics. Naturally, the doctors could not assure Tripp’s parents that he would ever be “normal” again – a grim prognosis that prompted Bill to write that his son might have a new normal, but he will still be all Tripp.    
As the days and weeks ticked by, Tripp started to have little successes. Breathing on his own. Opening his eyes. Responding to commands in physical therapy – every deliberate thumb twitch and eye blink was heartily celebrated by the people around him. His eyes steadily brightened until it was apparent that he was taking in his surroundings. When he was calm and quiet, nobody knew what he might be thinking; his parents and medical team were just encouraged that he seemed to be thinking something.
Among the successes have been challenges. Body-wide muscle spasms that can only be controlled through strong medication, delivered through a surgically-implanted pump. Unexplained vomiting. Crying jags that last for hours despite his parents’ best efforts to comfort him. And most recently, a life-threatening brain infection. Tripp's doctors had told Bill and Stacy to expect a cycle of progress and setbacks – two steps forward, one step back. But expecting the cycle doesn’t make the reality any easier to experience.
Through it all, Bill and Stacy have kept Tripp’s family, friends, prayer warriors, and general fan club – dubbed Team Boom for Tripp’s love of giving fist bumps – updated on his status. Through their daily updates, the Halsteads have allowed the world to wait and watch with them, praising God for Tripp’s successes and seeking His comfort during the setbacks. Stacy especially has taken to posting her thoughts and feelings about Tripp's condition, her memories of life before the accident, and the simple request that people keep praying. The Facebook page has become her very blog about this nightmare journey, and her writing is what made me fall in love with this little boy.     
Since Stacy has written so much about her family's nightmare journey, I feel like I know the Halsteads. I don’t know-KNOW them, and they have no idea I exist. No worries, I'm not in stalker territory here. But through their willingness to share their experience with the world, I know them well enough to feel happy when Tripp is doing well, and to feel sad and worried when he has a setback.

Also, I feel connected to Stacy as a fellow mother. Like I just want to go and sit with her and hold her hand or bring her a cup of coffee or whatever and say, “Hey. I’m here to prop you up as best I can.” Or when Tripp is having a good enough day for her to relax and breathe a little, I want to reach out and give her a high-five. I know how hard it is to be the wife of the gravely ill patient. I can only imagine how unbelievably painful it is to be the patent's mother.  
The Halsteads are blessed to be a surrounded by a community who is eager to lift them up spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Local churches and businesses have hosted many a fundraiser to help pay for medical and living expenses. And a legion of strangers worldwide, myself included, are following their story online – hoping and praying right along with them that their beloved Trippadoodle's successes will overcome his setbacks so he can get on with his new normal. May his horizon be filled with much love, laughter, and all the booms a little guy could ever want.   


  1. I have been following the story of this sweet little boy on Facebook. I love the way you wrote about it. I am also in love with this stranger's child...

  2. I follow his updates on facebook as well and I pray that he will recover one day. I admire his parents for having such a strong love for their child.......he is blessed to have them as parents. I love this sweet boy as well and i wish the best for him.....Go Tripp.

  3. I have to say I feel the same way. I have been following the progress and set backs for months. Celebrating the smallest of victories and praying for many more. This little boy is just stealing hearts around the world. I will continue to pray for his recovery and strength to all those involved. Hang in there, I believe in the power of prayer.


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