Shelby Foley and Brandon Bianco have learned many life lessons in the five weeks since their 10-month-old son, Kai, was bitten by the family dog.
They learned firsthand that life can change in an instant.
They witnessed the kindness of paramedics, sheriff’s deputies and medical professionals, plus the outpouring of support that is typical for Evergreen.
And, above all, they learned to trust that their son will recover, and they will weather the medical bills and the uncertainty of Kai’s future.
“We haven’t looked at the bills yet, but he’s been in intensive care for four weeks, and he’s had five brain surgeries so far,” Foley said.
Regarding Kai’s recovery: “The best-case scenario is he makes a full recovery and lives like a normal child. Worst case, maybe he can’t walk, or something we haven’t foreseen is coming.”
Before the accident, Kai was a typical toddler: crawling and pulling himself up and walking around the coffee table.
“He was very happy, a very active baby,” Foley said. “He loved going swimming and for stroller rides. He was an all-around happy kid.”
Now Foley, 23, stays at the hospital 24/7 while Kai’s dad, Brandon Bianco, 31, continues to run his business, Evergreen Delivery Service. Foley had been working at Loveland Ski Area and as a freelance graphic designer and cheerleading coach.
A typical day
About noon on March 4, Foley was cleaning, and Kai was crawling on the floor in the living room of their house on South Pine Drive. When she turned around, “I’m not sure what happened,” Foley said. “The dog had him in his mouth.”
Kai was pinned to the couch by Simon, a 5-year-old, 70-pound American bulldog who had been the family pet for four years. Simon’s jaws were around Kai’s head.
Foley put Simon in the bathroom, wrapped Kai’s head and called 911. It was comforting, she said, when her brother-in-law, an Evergreen Fire/Rescue dispatcher, answered the call and when sheriff’s deputy Dee Patterson, the Evergreen High School resource officer, was the first to arrive. Patterson is a family friend.
Kai was taken by helicopter to Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, a move Foley believes saved Kai’s life. He was in surgery for 6½ hours, and doctors didn’t believe he would survive. But he did.
He’s had four more surgeries on his brain. Most of the bite damage was to the right side of Kai’s head, so doctors are worried about how much mobility he will have on the left side of his body.
Kai had been heavily sedated for the past four weeks to allow his brain to heal. Last Friday, he was moved from the intensive care unit to a rehabilitation ward. He has moved his left limbs, is breathing on his own and is starting to eat solid food.
Foley says Kai has more surgeries ahead of him, plus hours and hours of rehabilitation. She estimates he will be in the hospital for another two months, or as long as the rehabilitation makes steady progress.
The story about Kai got a lot of coverage in the Denver news media, and Foley said the television stories portrayed Simon as a vicious dog when there was no information to back that up.
“He was a great dog, really good with people, but not with other dogs,” she said. “He was protective of Kai, followed him around the house and made sure he was OK. They were best friends. It was super tragic and a total freak accident.”
Simon was euthanized days after the accident.
Foley said the Evergreen community has been incredibly supportive of the family, with several fund-raisers planned in the next few months to help defray the mounting medical bills.
“We want to say thank you to everybody for the outpouring of support and love,” she said. “It’s amazing how many people care. We’re super grateful for everything.”
Foley said she and Brandon have gone through some rough patches emotionally while watching their son begin to recover, yet they have remained strong.
“If anything, it has really shown me how tough and amazing (Kai) is,” she said. “It shows us that no matter how big the obstacle, he is going to be a fighter. I think it is the hardest thing that we will ever experience, but it has really shown us how great faith can be.”
She says she and Bianco don’t have regrets.
“Every human would love to take back that day or never have gotten a dog, but realistically, we could not have prevented the situation, and regretting it now isn't helping our situation,” she said. “I would love to change the past but am embracing the miracles that are in the future.”
Donations for Kai can be made at Bank of the West, 3779 Evergreen Parkway.
• Espresso Evergreen will donate 100 percent of its proceeds on Thursday, April 10. The drive-thru coffee and ice cream shop is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and is in the US Bank parking lot.
• Evergreen High School’s DECA club is hosting a concert at the school from 6 to 9 p.m. April 19. All proceeds go to the family.
• Tequilas Mexican Restaurant in the King Soopers shopping center will donate 25 percent of its proceeds to the family from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. April 30.
• A Kare Fore Kai golf tournament is being planned on July 19 at the Evergreen Golf Course.