Mississippi boy who doctors said wouldn’t survive prepares for 4th birthday

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The year 2017 is one Mississippi mother Rebekah McCardle will never forget. It was the year her baby boy Lucas “Tripp” McCardle lost 70 percent of his brain matter, became a quadriplegic, and lost his hearing and sight. He was 7 months old.

The crushing, frightening ordeal began with a fever of 106.

“When we took him to the emergency room initially for that fever, I was thinking the whole time we were driving down there I’ve never heard of a person with a fever that high,” said Rebekah McCardle, Tripp’s mom.

Nonetheless, the McCardles were sent home with their baby and some Tylenol. The next day mother and son were on a chopper being flown to the Children’s Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi. The McCardles live in Purvis, Mississippi.

When Rebekah learned of a Phenix City, Alabama child with a similar story, she reached out to sister station WRBL in 2017. What tied the two families together was bacterial meningitis. In Tripp’s case, it was a strain his vaccine would not have prevented. 

“He didn’t have typical meningitis symptoms because I think the most common symptom is a rash and he didn’t have that so that’s why it wasn’t even on my radar,” said McCardle.

But it was on the radar of a neonatal specialist who just happened to be in the ER when the McCardles were there for the second time prior to going to Jackson. He strongly recommended to the doctors working on Tripp to give him a spinal tap. 

“So I went in there and watched three, four adults hold down every one of his limbs and him screaming,” said McCardle.

The fact that Tripp wouldn’t open his eyes, was lethargic and moaned when Rebekah picked him up is what sent her back to the ER. This was her first child but her intuition told her this was serious and she was right. Doctors in Jackson gave Rebekah and her family very little hope after they ran a battery of tests.

“They gave us no hope at all. When they first took those I think CT scans and stuff and MRIs that showed his brain … it was so grim a picture that they painted because they said ‘you know … brain matter is white,’ and his scans were pretty much black all in the middle. They were only white towards the outer edges. It didn’t even resemble a normal CT scan of a brain. It was so horrible and they said I don’t think he can come back from this,” said McCardle.

But Tripp had a praying family.

“It was the day that his brain started swelling and they pushed us out of the room and I could just hear a drill and they told us they were drilling a hole in his skull to relieve the pressure and he probably would not survive it. My father-in-law is a 6-foot-4 man. He’s huge and he’s very quiet, maybe says a word or two. He was on his knees bawling and I was like ‘Oh my God, this is real. This is real.’ So we all got down on our knees and started praying,” said McCardle.

 After praying she was able to speak to doctors again with a sense of peace.

“I was just calm as could be, we talked and everybody literally thought I had lost my mind but I had felt such a peace like a blanket of peace. God saying ‘I’m handling it,’” said McCardle.

Rebekah McCardle reached out to WRBL this week to share an update about Tripp. This child who was not supposed to survive will turn 4 years old on July 21. He’s now 42 inches tall. 

“Having a disabled child like him is like you’re going through the grieving process. It’s the cycle of grief over and over, it never stops because we’re grieving the child that used to be.”

Today, when Rebekah looks at her son, she’s thankful for the batting of each eyelid and every breath he takes.

“I just appreciate everything he does. When he laughs and giggles it’ll light up your soul. I’ve seen people in public and his therapist they cry when he laughs and smiles because it’s so angelic and I honestly feel like he has certain moments when he’s looking around … that he’s talking to angels. You just get a feeling that he’s beyond our world for sure,” said McCardle.

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