He’s the kid who gives them away like they were going out of style. Edward Tindall, 7, has a smile that comes easy, and often.
“I can’t help but to smile when I see my baby smile,” said Nikki Dennis, Edward’s mother.
For three weeks, that smile was hidden behind closed eyes. Edward and his younger sister NiKai’a were two of the 50 children on board the school bus that crashed on its way to Lighthouse Charter School on March 12. A kindergartner and the driver were both killed.
Mom Nikki found NiKai’a was okay, but Edward wasn’t. Trapped under the bus in the wheel well, he was moments away from death, his right leg broken in several places, his left leg mostly severed below the knee.
“It’s my understanding with the injuries with the amputation that he would normally have bled out within 15 minutes, but miraculously, he didn’t,” Nikki said.
Edward was in a medically-induced coma. Doctors at Riley at IU Health performed several surgeries in that time. How he would respond wasn’t clear, not until he woke up and began to communicate not with words, but his hands.
“I couldn’t talk?” Edward asked his mom.
“No, you couldn’t talk, but you can talk now.”
Even when the words came back, the thumbs stayed up and became Edward’s signature move.
“So when I would ask him are you okay, he would do this and so now he does it double,” said Dennis.
And soon, Edward went from his hospital bed to a wheelchair. That’s when his healing seemed to kick into high gear.
“Just him moving, getting those muscles strong and getting the trache out, everything is fast forward, very thankful for that,” said Dennis.
To move forward meant fighting through pain. Pain no child should have to know, but is necessary for Edward to do the things he used to do. That’s where the therapy comes in and the expertise of pediatric physical therapist Brooke Patrick.
“He probably doesn’t understand all the pain and doing what I’m doing,” Patrick said. “He’s done a great job, and he’s a really tough kid.”
And as Edward stood for the first few times, it was hard at first. He winced the pain away. And in the end, his reward was the kind of therapy he clearly enjoys more than the rest. All of it’s focused on moving past the injury that fails to define his future.
“I think he can lead a fully functional life,” Patrick said. “We’re getting him a prosthesis now. Once he gets that, we’re going to work on standing on both legs, and once he’s able to do that, I think the sky’s the limit: walk, run jump, whatever he wants to do.”
“No matter what, nothing happened that’s going to stop him from doing anything he wants to do,” said Dennis.
Faith tells Dennis that, faith that’s come through prayer and determination. All she needs to do is look at Edward’s face to see both. It’s in his eyes, and on his face: a scar the accident left behind.
“God was with him the whole way and His way of showing me that was to brand my son with cross on his face. They said they could work on it to clean it up and make it look better, and I said leave it alone, it’s his brand from God.”
That faith led to the day Edward finally got to come home. And when he arrived he was riding in style, and he wasn’t be riding in his wheelchair.
“I get to ride in a limousine!?” Edward exclaimed.
Not long after his young life was in peril, he walked out of the hospital, greeted not just by his family, but by his classmates from Lighthouse Charter. Tentative at first but finally feeling brave enough even to let go of mom’s hand, just for a minute.
Seven weeks after climbing aboard that school bus back in March, Edward climbed into a stretch Hummer for a memorable limo ride home, complete with a police escort, all the way from downtown to Edward’s home near 46th and Shadeland.
Who greeted him at the door? His sister with a walker Edward doesn’t need. Then one foot in front of the other, Edward took the first step to a new phase of his young life.
Inside, more balloons, cards and friends were waiting for him. After arriving to his hero’s welcome, Edward showed how he gets moving with what he calls his lucky foot.
“You put this screw in here. Once it’s in there, you don’t twist it, you just push it in as hard as you can until it clicks. Then it clicks.”
“It’s definitely the baby that I left out of here with the same baby today. Hurray!” said Dennis.
Back in his own living room, his own bed and around his friends, Edward’s family knows life won’t be quite the same in the short term. But in the long run, obstacles will be hurtled and challenges met.
“At the hospital, he was upset about how hard his life was going to be, nothing easy is appreciated,” said Dennis. “And even though it’s hard and life is gonna be hard, I feel like anything worth having is working for.”
Yes, life is a gift. And if Edward’s story has taught us anything, surely it’s that.
“This whole situation has given me a whole new appreciation for my family and my kids. Nobody is promised tomorrow, you should definitely take care of your people and make sure they know how much you care about them every day.”
Meantime, investigators are still working to learn what caused the school bus accident on the east side of Indianapolis March 12. The crash also took the lives of a Lighthouse Charter School student and the bus driver. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Anthony Schneider said investigators are waiting for the final report from the Marion County Coroner to learn what may have caused the driver to strike the bridge support.