Less than two weeks ago, nine-month-old Kade Hill was bitten in the face by his family dog and airlifted to Vancouver Children's Hospital, where he received between 150 and 200 stitches on his head and face.
You would never know it from the smiling, giggling baby he is today, back home in Penticton with his family as of Monday.
"I cannot believe how fast he has healed," his mother Amber Cissell said, as Kade cooed and grinned in her lap. "He was black and blue, his face was black and blue, and his eye was black and blue for about three days, and then it was just gone."
Cissell points to the moment his big brother Ty Hill, 7, came to visit in the hospital as a real turning point in his recovery.
"The love that those two share for each other, it's unbelievable," Cissell said.
Baby Kade's story came to light through a GoFundMe set up by Cissell's husband Adam Hill's brother.
The pair had not given any media interviews until this point, and decided to reach out to Castanet to set the record straight about some misinformation floating around in other news outlets — recent incorrect reports about Kade's age, that he needed numerous more surgeries, that he wasn't breathing when he arrived at the hospital, and more.
"I'm frustrated that people said they tried to contact us and they never did," Hill said.
The real story started with a movie night at the family's Penticton home with Hill, Cissell, Ty and Kade all together — and the family dog.
"They were not unsupervised, we were all in the living room watching a movie, I got up to the kitchen table and it was instant, we heard the dog growl," Cissell said, fading off with emotion. "If I had an explanation, I probably wouldn't be sitting here right now, because it probably wouldn't have happened."
They rushed to Penticton Regional Hospital, not wanting to wait for an ambulance, with Hill and Ty in the front, Cissell and a screaming Kade in the back.
"I did breathe into him once, just to expand his lungs, because he was choking on blood," Cissell said, explaining that numerous First Aid and rescue courses from her past came back in a flash.
She and Kade were airlifted to Vancouver Children's Hospital while Hill drove frantically to meet them, arriving just five minutes before Kade was wheeled into surgery.
"After we got to see him in the recovery room, it had been almost five hours since I had last seen him," Cissell said. "They figure it was one bite. [The dog's] top tooth ran the top of Kade's head, and the cheek was from his paw."
Kade's wounds included a shattered nose bone, concerns about his tear duct and what the surgeon estimated as between 150 and 200 stitches. But thankfully, he will recover, and while no other surgeries are currently scheduled, he will need a few more trips to Vancouver for doctors to monitor his recovery and growth.
That's where the GoFundMe money will come in handy. Both Hill and Cissell are overwhelmed by the support of so many people — anonymous donors to the campaign, $400 of groceries bought by parents and teachers at Ty's elementary school, to name a few examples — but the spotlight came with a dark side.
"It's keyboard warriors, and you almost feel attacked by your community," Cissell said, referring to nasty comments springing up online.
She and her husband say some of the more hurtful comments have suggested the GoFundMe is some kind of scheme to make money, a concept they find both absurd and upsetting. Other comments have speculated as to the cause of Kade's injury, implying they thought the family was hiding something.
"These people are just digging on it. Thanks for the support from the ones that are supportive, but really? The rest?" Hill said. "Nobody says none of that stuff to your face. It's just frustrating."
They say speculation about the breed of the dog, which they had put down, is not relevant to the situation.
"Ever since this has happened we've had numerous people reach out to us and let us know 'My child was attacked by our dog too,'" Cissell said, adding she and Hill never left Ty and Kade alone with the dog.
Kade's tiny stitches already look like they are healing, and while they aren't worried about his road to recovery, the whole ordeal has been hard on the rest of the family, including Ty, who witnessed the incident.
"We know physically and mentally he's going to be okay, because he's too young. I think my 7-year-old and us are going to struggle just a little bit," Cissell said, and Hill agreed, saying counselling for all of them is likely.
For now, after getting their story out, the family hopes for privacy while they heal, but wants to share their endless gratitude for the GoFundMe donors who will help make trips to Vancouver less of a financial burden while they give Kade the care and attention he needs.
"Let us all do what we gotta do," Hill said.