Daniel Wheeler, 6, on the tricycle, plays with his brother Jacob Wheeler, 3, at their home in Newton County. Daniel suffered a traumatic brain injury in April and is in need of intense therapy to help him recover. Friends have organized a fund-raiser for the family, Daniel's Day, set to take place on June 30 in Porterdale.
Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
In early April, Daniel Wheeler, 6, fractured his skull after falling out of the back of a pickup truck. He received life-threatening head injuries and spent over a month in the hospital.
Surgeons repaired Daniel's skull with titanium plates. He spent weeks on life support. After regaining consciousness, he relearned how to use the bathroom, swallow, eat, drink, walk and talk.
"Daniel was a little miracle boy. He is a fighter, I'll tell you that," said Amy Abbott, a friend of the family.
Daniel is home now with his parents Ashley and Charles Wheeler and brother Jacob, 3, but he is still in desperate need of medical attention. Mrs. Wheeler said her son is functioning on a 2-year-old level due to his brain injuries and doctors recommend intense therapy to help him recover.
"It's very important for him to build himself back up to being as close to a normal 6-year-old as possible as far as living and playing -- everyday life," she said.
Though Mr. Wheeler works full-time and Mrs. Wheeler holds a part-time job, and the family is insured, the co-pays on the therapies are cost-prohibitive.
To help the Wheeler family with medical expenses, friends have stepped in to organize what they've dubbed Daniel's Day, a fundraiser for the Wheeler family, set to take place at 10 a.m. on June 30 at 1001 Main St. in Porterdale, both indoors and outdoors.
A family festival, Daniel's Day features live music by local musicians including Drew Parker, acoustic guitarist who sings country/gospel; Logan Smith, a Christian gospel singer; Halls of Glory, a bluegrass band; and KAOS and Alive, both Christian teen bands.
Other Daniel's Day activities include bounce houses, face painting, dunking booth, games, cookie decorating and "crazy hair" styling. Visitors can also purchase raffle tickets for items like quilts, an oil change and gift baskets or enjoy some barbecue, hotdogs, funnel cakes, baked goods and cotton candy. Door prizes will also be awarded.
Daniel's Day organizers will charge a nominal fee for the activities and food, in an effort to raise money to donate to the Wheelers.
Abbott, the mother of a 5-year-old, said she visited Daniel and his family in the hospital, and the sight of Daniel lying in his hospital bed, attached to the ventilators drove her to want to help.
"It hit me really hard. We knew they were struggling. (Ashley) was working two jobs and (Charles) worked full-time just to make ends meet," said Abbott. "Hopefully this money will help them and (Daniel) will recover and get back to normal."
Mrs. Wheeler said doctors want Daniel to receive speech therapy three times a week, occupational therapy twice a week and physical therapy twice a week.
"Daniel was a very active, loving, smart child. He was a grade ahead before this," said Mrs. Wheeler, who added that Daniel was a rising first-grader at Rocky Plains Elementary School.
Mrs. Wheeler said that since the accident, Daniel can only speak a few words at a time, not full sentences.
"He gets frustrated with communication and has a short attention span now," she said.
Mrs. Wheeler said in addition to the cost of the therapy, her family is also struggling to pay for the airlift that took Daniel to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston and for the stay at both Egleston and Scottish Rite.
Mrs. Wheeler said the outpouring of help from her friends is much appreciated.
"I've never been on this side and it's hard being on this side," said Mrs. Wheeler. "But it's not for me, it's for Daniel, especially now that the bills are rolling in, I'm really grateful."
For more information, find Daniel's Day on Facebook. Donations may be made to Newton Federal Bank to the Daniel's Day account.