When Brock Hillensbeck goes for a ride, it's a celebration. His father Brian Hillensbeck says "He loves that wheel!"
Brock is two years old and the bike is special. It's from the McLendon Family Foundation. It's specially adapted for Brock's disability, and ordinarily would cost the family $4,000.
The Wheels to Succeed and McLendon Family Foundation make Brock's bike ride possible by providing the very expensive bike for as long as Brock uses it. When he outgrows it, it goes back to Wheels to Succeed and another is given to him while another child uses the smaller bike.
Brock's cheering squad includes Grandma Wanda Hillensbeck, his mother Shonda, and his big sister Ashlynne, also known as "Sissy".
For the entire family, this has been a seven-month incredible journey. Brock was injured while at church. He was walking with a musician's drumstick when he fell and the drumstick went into his mouth and perforated his throat, cutting his carotid artery. As the toddler hemorrhaged, his family did not know. It did not look serious on the outside.
Shonda said, "He fell, kinda face-planted, had a bloody nose. And that was it, because we didn't know that the drumstick even went in his mouth until the next day at the hospital."
Hours later, Brock let out a blood-curdling shriek and then fell silent. His right side drooped and looked lifeless. From their home in Prairieville, the family rushed Brock to the hospital. First at Picou Lane, then OLOL Children's Hospital on Essen, Brock had two surgeries. He had a craniotomy, which means they cut the skull open to access the child's brain. Brock would have to learn to sit up, walk and talk all over again.
The family was told that Brock's hospital stay might take seven months. The family dug in for the long hours by his side.
Shonda, Ashlynn and Wanda decided there were so many people asking about Brock that they would just create a Facebook page. That's how "Praying for Brock's Miracle" was started. The women say they never expected what happened next.
Within days there were 10,000 followers. Two separate strangers felt moved to make gifts. A toy superhero that one woman made to look like Brock, wearing Spongebob Squarepants jammies was sent. Brock's pictures on Facebook had featured a lot of Spongebob and a second woman picked up on that and made a pillow with Brock's name appliquéd in Spongebob fabric. Shonda is still amazed by the viral success of Brock's Facebook page.
"Each post shows us how many people have viewed it. There's some with over 20,000 views on it. We were getting messages from people in New Zealand and Australia. All around the world people were praying for him."
Ashlynne plays with Brock in the backyard at home. She teases him to chase her and he loves it. He does not know that the playtime is also good therapy.
Ashlynne is a freshman at LSU. A major event came and went while Brock and the family were at the hospital. She graduated high school.
Ashlynne admits her graduation was downplayed, but said she wouldn't have it any other way. She and her family have watched her little brother improve by leaps and bounds, and in fact, he walked on his own out of the hospital just seven weeks after going in. The almost year-long hospital stay was not necessary.
Shonda says she had no doubt that thousands of prayers for Brock are doing the very miracle their Facebook page asked for. She said reading what people wrote helped her get through it all.
"It wasn't so much I was hearing success stories, or good things and everything," she said. "It was more, you know, knowing that people cared enough to pray for my son."
The family is currently working on a live concert to raise money for Brock's medical expenses. Called "Rock For Brock", they have a band and are now looking for a location.
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