Family finds extra reasons to give thanks after son’s sprained ankle leads to 36-day hospital stay

Finally, 36 days, seven surgeries, 10 incisions and countless IVs and scans later, Timmy came home, just in time for Thanksgiving.
Published: Nov. 24, 2022 at 9:55 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 24, 2022 at 10:30 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Timmy Hovestadt loves video games, but the 11-year-old would much rather be on the move.

“He’s very active,” his dad, Timm Hovestadt, said. “He’s always wanting to do something, always running around playing, whether it’s playing catch outside or just riding his bike.”

It was soccer and football practice in early October that sidelined Timmy.

“I kept it a secret (at first) for some reason,” he said

But he couldn’t hide it for long.

“I started limping more often and I couldn’t run or kick,” Timmy said.

“When he couldn’t bear weight on his left ankle, we took him in and they said it was just a high ankle sprain,” Timm said.

Timmy went to school that week on crutches. When he went to his mom’s that weekend, it got worse.

“I noticed a rash on his leg, but what really made me caution was his right knee was swollen, even though he sprained his left ankle,” recalls his mom, Sam Armstrong.

They took Timmy back to the doctor, who immediately sent him to Stormont Vail Hospital. The inflammation from the sprained ankle allowed a type of staph infection into his blood. He underwent surgery to drain fluid and clear the infection from his knees, but it didn’t stop.

Dr. Mina Fanous, a pediatric intensivist at Stormont who cared for Timmy, said the case was unusual. While everyone has staph bacteria on their skin, it typically gets into the bloodstream through some type of open wound - which Timmy didn’t have. Timmy also had no evidence of any immune deficiency that would explain why the infection wouldn’t go away.

A few days and a second surgery into his hospital stay, Dr. Fanous said the treatment team made the decision to reach out to their partners at Children’s Mercy.

“Those were a tough few hours because his breathing was causing him more trouble. His fevers were still at a high grade. He actually had what we call an infected clot in the veins of the leg and there were actually several of them,” Dr. Fanous said. “We know that at a certain point this is not a standard or a common infection and we need specialized care.”

Dr. Fanous said, with time of the essence, Timmy was taken to Kansas City by air ambulance. Timmy thought a helicopter ride was pretty cool experience.

“I had earplugs and we flew over water and it was one of the biggest helicopters,” Timmy said.

But for mom and dad, it was a bit more stressful.

“When you basically get told, ‘Well, we’re not sure why this is happening,’ that’s when it gets pretty scary,” Timm said.

Sam agreed.

“It’s very scary to see your kid be helpless and not be able to do anything to make him better,” she said.

Once at Children’s Mercy, Timmy immediately received a specialized MRI, and, once again, headed to surgery.

“We really didn’t have any answers or know what road ahead looked like,” Sam said.

“Seeing your kid intubated and having to unsedate him is probably the hardest thing I’ve had to witness as a parent,” Timm added.

In addition to the blood clots, the infection had spread to Timmy’s hip and back, killing some of the bone tissue in his leg.

“In the hospital, I could barely move my leg,” Timmy said. “I wasn’t able to walk or get up and use the bathroom. I had to be carried everywhere.”

Timmy fought with the support of a tribe, powered by prayer. A member of their church created t-shirts for Timmy’s Tribe, with the slogans P.O.P. /P.O.G. - power for prayer, power of God. Timmy’s football team put decals on their helmets with the slogans.

“I know a bunch of people were caring for me and praying and wanting me to get better,” Timmy said.

Finally, 36 days, seven surgeries, 10 incisions and countless IVs and scans later, Timmy came home, just in time for Thanksgiving. The PIC line used to administer the frequent medications he’d been receiving was removed just this week.

“It’s amazing,” Timm said. “He’s able to smile, laugh, still has his goofy sense of humor.”

“Everyone’s care and love and support has been overwhelming,” Sam said.

Dr. Fanous said seeing Timmy getting back on his feet is especially gratifying.

“That’s, at the end of the day, what really matters because when kids come in really sick you wonder will they recover, will they recover fully?” he said. “I’m glad that he got to that point and I really look forward to see what he can achieve over the next year or so.”

Timmy still faces physical therapy to be able to strengthen and straighten his leg. He still uses a wheelchair while he rebuilds the strength to walk. But at this point, he’s game for anything.

“He’s tough,” Sam said. “He came out stronger.”

Timmy said he’s grateful they all got through it. He has several siblings and step-siblings to assist with his recovery and, thought mom admits it’s a bit scary to think about him getting back to activities like football, they’ll support whatever he decides, when he’s ready.

Timmy’s lesson to any other kids who get hurt?

“Tell your parents right way so they can get a hold of somebody for a checkup!” he said.

Timmy’s parents say this is the second time he’s shown how strong he is. He also underwent treatment for a heart defect when he was one week old.

Timmy will have the honor of flipping the switch on Stormont’s holiday lights at their “Warm and Thankful” event. It takes place at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29, outside the main entrance, SW 9th and Horne. They’ll also stream it live on their Facebook page.