I've had many people ask me how Cole (our two-and-a-half year old son) has been affected by Dustin's accident. The moment he saw his daddy for the first time, is a moment that I will never forget.
Dustin didn't want Cole to see him for a while. He was worried that he would be scared. It literally broke my heart to think of how it would make Dust feel if Cole was scared of his sweet, injured dad.
Now, up until the accident, Cole had been such a Momma's boy that it would take him a little while to warm up when Daddy came home. Don't get me wrong, he adored his dad and his dad adored him, but he was interrupting Mommy/Coley time! Dust would be patient as Cole would warm up. Then they would spend hours wrestling, playing soccer or basketball, and grunting and growling at each other.
To be honest, I thought it would take Cole days to not be scared or cling to me when Dust was around. Everyone tried to prepare him by saying that Daddy had an "owie on his eyes" and I had even shown him a little video on my phone of Dust walking around with the help of some physical therapists when he was still blind.
Dust's sweet sister Stacie had taken over my job as Mommy for weeks after the accident (and then even longer after the surgery). Her amazing little family just took him in like he was their own.
One day, about two weeks after the accident, Dust's mom brought Cole over to my mom's house to see me. Dust was downstairs in his hospital bed. As per his request, we tried to keep Cole upstairs.
"I need to see my daddy! I need my daddy!" He kept saying as he tried to force his way down the stairs. He eventually got himself down the stairs, burst into our bedroom, and RAN to his daddy's side.
"Daddy!!!!" He was so excited! He didn't seem to care one tiny bit what his daddy looked like. He just needed him. To see him. To touch him. To know that he was still here.
"Coley! Hi, buddy!" Dust said with such enthusiasm, I instantly knew that I wasn't in trouble for allowing Cole to force his way down there. It is amazing how one little determined boy can lift his daddy's spirits.
Cole has been Dustin's constant sidekick since that day. I have never seen a two-year-old so compassionate and loving. It's almost as if he can sense how close we came to losing his daddy.
After Dustin's surgery, he felt the same way he did after the accident. Being trached, unable to talk, he was afraid of how that would affect Cole. Cole didn't care one bit! I didn't even realize that Cole noticed anything until the day Dustin got the speaking valve on his trachea and Cole asked, "Mommy, can my daddy talk now?"
One night after the surgery, I had taken a shower and Dust did Cole's bedtime routine. I was walking past Cole's room to our bedroom and noticed that Dust was lying on Cole's bed with him. As I got closer, I could hear Dustin breathing deep and I could see Cole's arm moving.
Dust was fast asleep, lying close to the wall on his side with his face toward Cole and his arm under Cole's head, his other arm draped over Cole's body. Cole was curled up in his dad's embrace. I watched as Cole slowly and gently ran his sweet little fingers down the side of Dustin's face over and over again. His eyes were open as he took in the beauty of my sweet husband's face and softly brushed his hand over Dustin's injuries.
He heard me and turned his head to look at me, "Shhhh, Mommy. My daddy is sleeping."
This wouldn't be the last time I would see Cole do this. In fact, he does it quite a bit. They love each other with such intensity, it is amazing to watch.
Often, I find my handsome boys snuggled up together watching a movie or playing together. Oh, they play so hard together! Cole inspires Dust to get up and out and do things that he might not otherwise do in such a painful and hard recovery.
Dustin has been going back to work regularly. Every day, as we drop him off, Cole says, "My daddy don't wants to go to work! I don't want my daddy to go to work!" Dust goes around to Cole's door, opens it up, gives him a kiss and tells him he loves him. Then Cole makes me roll down his window to yell "I love you daddy!" before Dust walks inside.
Whenever Dust is not around, Cole tells me, "My daddy needs me." They are literally oxygen to each other.
So, to answer the question of how the accident has affected Cole - It has made him stronger, more resilient. It has made him more compassionate and observant. It has made his bond with his daddy firm, strong, unbreakable. They are so blessed to have each other and I am so blessed to be able to watch them together. I'm so very thankful that our Heavenly Father gave this daddy his strong son and this son his courageous daddy.