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Love to my kids' other dad

After an accident left him paralyzed, an uncle helped raise kids with the same praise, care, love and guidance as a biological parent.
Abby Patonai, KSL Modified: June 12, 2014 at 2:48 pm •  Published: June 13, 2014

It was the day before Easter 2006 when I received the call. My husband's brother was involved in an ATV accident at the sand dunes and he was air-lifted to the hospital. I was visiting my mother several hours away when I got the call. I was told he was found unresponsive, face down on the side of a hill. His helmet had softened the impact but it had blocked his airway. Emergency responders were unsure how it happened and how long he remained in that position before he was found. There was speculation that he had been drinking.

After hours of testing and several surgeries to stabilize his spine, doctors determined the single 27-year-old plumber was paralyzed and had a brain injury. His spinal cord was bruised mid-torso but it was enough to cause permanent paralysis. I remember my husband breaking down in tears, sobbing uncontrollably, asking, "Why him? Why not me?"

Uncle Doug wasn't close to my kids when his accident happened. He was young, carefree and trying to establish his own life. He had recently purchased a home and was in the process of remodeling. He wasn't married. He didn't have kids. He was just starting out in life. My husband felt guilty becuse he had all the experiences Doug lacked.

We spent many days and nights at the hospital. The kids pushed Doug down the hall in his new wheelchair. They would explore the floors of the hospital with him or help straighten up his hospital room. Sometimes they would sit on his lap during his rehabilitation with his physical therapist. There wasn't much excitement for a 7-year-old and a 9-year-old to have in the hospital, but they looked forward to going there as the bond with him grew.

When he was finally released from the hospital months later, the kids were very close to him. Doug was forced to sell his new home and move back in with his parents. He would look forward to the kids coming over to visit after school or on the weekends. Eventually, my husband and I decided to remove the kids from day care and allow him to watch them over the summer. The three of them were inseparable. They took walks around the neighborhood, watched movies together, took trips to the convenience store for treats, talked and laughed. They often begged me to let them sleep over.

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