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Boy injured in cat-caused bicycle crash released from hospital
Update: Nolan Harness was released from the hospital and went home Wednesday, Sept. 21.
Becki Harness had dinner in the oven when her 7-year-old son said he wanted to ride his bike for a little while.
“So I went outside and sat on a bench, and in five minutes, this happened,” she says.
What happened July 28 was the beginning of an ordeal for the South Kitsap family that’s not close to being over yet. Her son, Nolan, has been at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma since that night, when he was seriously injured in a bike crash caused by a cat crossing his path.
Last Saturday, a fundraiser was held in Port Orchard to help the family with the medical bills for Nolan’s treatment. Their friends organizing the event dubbed it the “Auction for Hope.”
On that summer evening seven weeks ago, a bike ride seemed just a pleasant diversion until suppertime, but then calamity intervened.
“I was sitting right there, that’s what’s so weird about it,” Becki recalls in a phone interview from her son’s hospital room.
Nolan, wearing a helmet, was pedaling down a little trail when Cookie, one of the family’s two cats, darted out in front of him and he didn’t have time to stop.
When the bike hit the cat, “it caused the handlebars to jerk around, and they basically stabbed him in the stomach” as he was thrown over the bike and then landed hard on the ground.
The boy suffered a broken collarbone, plus severe internal injuries to his spleen and pancreas. And during his hospital stay, Nolan has developed other serious complications.
“We came into the hospital not knowing what was going on,” Becki says. “We were told he’d be observed for a couple nights.
“But the pancreas injury has taken forever to heal, and he ended up getting nine kidney stones.”
Pancreatitis and kidney stones are both painful abdominal conditions, and Nolan hasn’t been able to eat during most of his hospital stay. He’s had to receive nutrition through an IV, but last week he had a feeding tube through his nose restarted.
His mother explains that sustaining use of the feeding tube and getting Nolan off the narcotic pain medication he’s needed will allow him to be released from the hospital, possibly as soon as next week.
When he does go home, the feeding tube will be required for a couple months as his internal organs continue to heal. And he’ll have to go back to the hospital at some point for removal of stints in his stomach and kidneys.
If all goes well, he might be able to start school — as a first-grader at Bethany Lutheran School — before Christmas.
His mom says Nolan has held up “amazingly” during his long, difficult stay in the hospital.
Despite some down days, “for a 7-year-old, I think he’s handling the whole thing very well,” she says.
The hardest part for his parents and 10-year-old sister, Paich, has been “just seeing him go through all this,” says Becki, who’s stayed at the hospital with her son since the accident.
She describes Nolan as “a total homeboy, he loves to be at home. So to be yanked from home suddenly like that, a little guy like him ... it makes me sad for him.”
She and her husband, Andre, who has a landscape construction business, are grateful for the support and help they’ve received since Nolan’s accident.
“People have been so nice helping us,” says Becki, who works as a medical assistant at Sound Health Care Center in Port Orchard.
And though she says it’s a little “awkward” to need and ask for help — “It’s much easier for me to be a giver than a receiver,” Becki says — she feels like the help in the family’s time of need is coming back around from when they’ve helped others, such as when her husband has donated his services for fundraising auctions for schools, Little League and civic groups.
She says she’d love to go to the fundraiser Saturday, but isn’t sure she can make it.
As her son’s hospital stay stretches toward two months, it still seems incredible to Becki that it resulted from something as benign as a child’s bicycle ride.
“It’s weird, because we have quads (all-terrain vehicles), and he has a little motorcycle, and you’re almost more paranoid when you ride those,” she says.
And though everyone’s been concerned about Nolan, his mom also has been asked about the culprit in the bike crash — the cat.
“The cat is totally fine,” Becki says. “He probably wonders where everybody’s gone.”