On the day last week when little Christian “Jack” Hernandez finally received his new prosthetic leg, he did something he hasn’t been able to do for the past couple of months.
“He was very excited,” said his mother, Rita Hernandez. “The first thing he did, he started dancing.”
It was the first sign of joy the family has seen since April, when an accident with a riding lawn mower at their Sandy Beach residence severely injured Jack’s right leg. Doctors at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth were unable to save the leg below the knee.
The tragedy was made even more stressful by the fact that the Acton area family was uninsured. Rita works at Mi Familia restaurant, and her husband Sergio, who speaks little English, makes a living as a ranch hand.
As soon as word spread of the family’s plight, the community rallied to help. Shelli and David Berry, with the aid of corporate sponsors, spearheaded a barbecue lunch fundraiser. The wait staff at Mi Familia donated $2,024 in tips – a sum that was matched by the restaurant’s owners. And last Saturday, about 400 people participated in a fundraising run for Jack in Arlington. Sergio is a member of the Fort Worth Running Club.
Then there are the gifts that money can’t buy. A woman who recently encountered the family at a local store told Jack she had been praying for him.
Rita, who plans to return to work this weekend, said that the outpouring of kindness has been overwhelming.
“We’re blessed. We’ve had so much support. I never knew how good people are,” she said. “I’m counting my blessings.”
Though things are finally looking up, there are still struggles and moments of heartbreak. Rita said that one day last week, she woke up to find that Jack had put a sock on what remains of his right leg.
“I don’t know if he was dreaming that he was putting on his socks and shoes, or what,” she said. “He tells me that he still feels his toes.”
Grief has been compounded by feelings of guilt for Sergio and 10-year-old Cezar. Sergio had been about to tell Jack to get off the lawn mower driven by his brother when the accident happened.
Sergio, Rita said, has received help from people at StoneWater Church, and Cezar has been going to counseling.
The family recently was approved for Medicaid, although payment was denied for a lot of Jack’s medical expenses, Rita said.
She added that he will soon start physical therapy three times a week.
In addition to adjusting to the prosthesis, Jack is having to deal with how other children view his disability.
“Other kids will look at him, and he wants to turn around and go the other way,” Rita said. “But there are other kids who just go out of their way to be nice to him.”
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