LOUISA COUNTY, Va. -- Bikers from across Central Virginia are revving up to support a Louisa boy who drowned.
On March 25, 2017, Joel and Ashley Michael were set to renew their wedding vows to celebrate their 10th anniversary.
“It was an exciting day, we had gotten this beautiful venue,” explained Luke’s mom Ashley Michael.
The Michaels were doing last minute preparations for the ceremony, when a family friend offered to have her teen daughter watch over their four kids.
Guests began arriving when Joel realized he hadn’t seen his two-year-old Luke.
“Something popped in my head and I asked, ‘where’s the baby?’ And, nobody knew,” said Joel.
They immediately started searching.
“We hear her start yelling, ‘he’s in the water!’ said Ashley. “We saw him face down floating in a koi pond that was literally three feet across.”
Joel jumped in the water and handed Luke to his wife.
“We just flip him over and there’s nothing,” Ashley explained. “His eyes are open but he’s not alive. He is blue, gray, swollen.”
The couple immediately started CPR as they waited for emergency responders.
Luke had been under water for at least five minutes. His heart wouldn’t beat again for 25 minutes.
He was flown to the University of Virginia Hospital.
“Just watching them swirl around him. He’s 83 degrees. He’s literally still knocking on death’s door. They can’t get an IV ran because he’s still so cold,” said Ashley.
“They told us if you want to come see him and give him a kiss just in case… this might be the last time,” she said.
“Those are words you never want to hear,” said Joel through tears.
But “Luke the Little but Mighty” as he’s called, hung in there.
He spent the next two months in hospitals.
The lack of oxygen had resulted in a hypoxic brain injury.
“[Luke’s brain] It looks more like swiss cheese where there are little pockets here and there, that are just empty now,” said Joel.
“It was a complete reset back to a fetus,” said Ashley.
“He couldn’t hold his head up. Couldn’t see. He couldn’t swallow. We had to manage his secretions for him. He couldn’t roll,” Joel explained.
Seventeen months later, the three-year-old is rolling into new milestones everyday with the help of traditional therapies and alternative treatments.
“We have an almost crawling, eating smiling miracle that tells us these things work,” said Ashley.
Joel quit his job to care for Luke.
“It’s a full-time job. Not 40 hours a week. We’re talking 24/7 365,” said Joel. “We’ve kind of reached the end of our rope with being able to pay for treatments.”
The family says they have spent $35,000 this year alone on treatment that is not covered by insurance.
“Not only did we lose an income, but we pretty much spent an income on these treatments,” Ashley said. “These right now are the ones that are making the biggest difference in him and if we don’t get them, I don’t know how much more we can get from this recovery,” said Ashley.
Luke was chosen as the beneficiary of the 7th annual Evan Adams Memorial Benefit Ride.
Evan died in 2012 after battling autoimmune hepatitis and aplastic anemia.
The annual event honors his memory by raising money for local kids with life threatening or serious medical conditions.
The Michaels plan to use the funds on more treatments to help with Luke’s recovery.
“With the help of God and our community we are able to afford them and now have this child make this miraculous recovery because of it,” said Ashley.
Two days before the drowning Luke told his mom ‘I wuv you' for the first time. Ashley hopes she will one day hear those three words again from her youngest child.
“If he doesn’t walk, he doesn’t walk. If he doesn’t go to prom, he doesn’t go to prom,” said Ashley. “If he can eat with us as a family, can communicate with us and if he can say I love you mom just one more time,” she paused through tears.