By PACO NUNEZ
Tribune News Editor
WHEN she first saw her six-year-old son Thomas gasping for breath, his face bruised and swollen, blood flowing from his mouth, Tina Klonaris-Robinson was sure that for the second time in her life, a child was about to be taken from her.
Moments before, she and her husband had left the toddler happily playing on his bicycle under supervision in the small gated community where they live.
Then a freak accident. The chain on Thomas’ bike suddenly snapped and he lost control, veering into the street and slipping under the tyre of a large, heavy SUV that happened to be passing at just that moment.
The driver could never have seen him, and only knew to hit the brakes when bystanders screamed. By then, the vehicle had rolled onto Thomas’ back, crushing his chest and causing grievous internal trauma.
The onlookers, Sam and Nevien Kellini, rushed to the boy – only to find that he had stopped breathing and had no pulse.
But against all odds the couple, who don’t live in the community but decided on a whim to go for a stroll there, turned out to be doctors and were able to resuscitate Thomas twice before his parents sped up.
“I got the call and could hardly understand,” Tina said. “I heard a hysterical voice screaming, crying telling me ‘Thomas . . . under the car’. We were a minute away and flew around the corner.
“My poor baby, blood coming out of his nose and mouth and his face purple, I thought the car had run over his face.
“His chest was cut up and he kept saying ‘I cannot breathe, my chest hurts’.
“God only knows how terrified I was, holding it together, telling my baby that angels were with him. It was all I knew how to say. ‘You are going to be okay,’ I said. He kept saying, ‘I’m not, I’m not mom . . . My chest hurts, I can’t see.”
“It was terrifying. I did not know if my baby boy was going to make it but if he wasn’t, he had to know that he was surrounded by love.”
At the hospital, the parents waited for what seemed like forever for news. When it came, it wasn’t good.
Thomas’ lung had collapsed, his diaphragm was ruptured, his spleen had suffered a two-inch tear and his stomach had been pushed up into his chest by the weight of the heavy SUV.
Three hours of agony followed, as surgeons operated and Tina and her husband Curtis waited frantically for an update.
Then, for the second time that night, fortune smiled on the family.
The doctors emerged to tell them that everything had gone extremely well. So well in fact, that they could already express confidence in a full recovery.
“No one knows how he even survived,” Tina said. “Everyone says it is a miracle.
“Even the doctors smile and shake their head – they know he shouldn’t have been here.”
Following the surgery, the doctors thought Thomas would have to spend at least a full week in hospital, but he healed so quickly that on Tuesday, four days after the incident, he was again at home with his relieved and grateful parents.
Curtis and Tina are all the more relieved and grateful, as they truly understand the anguish they were spared that night.
“When I saw him after the accident, my life once again stopped,” Tina said. “I said to myself, I can’t believe I’m losing another child.”
Several years ago, her daughter Meah died during a traumatic labour ordeal that threatened Tina’s life as well.
“For months after my daughter’s death, and my own near death, I despaired. I grieved. And I was angry. Angry at the doctor because I felt she had caused the death of my daughter,” she said.
In time, Tina managed to find healing by helping others who had suffered severe trauma.
She founded The Meah Foundation, which seeks to raise awareness of people’s experiences, particularly of how people suffer and overcome, transforming their pain into healing and wisdom, and ultimately into hope.
“When we listen to the stories of others, we find strength, courage and hope. We are inspired and we are reminded of the power of faith,” she said. “We learn to find forgiveness and to live life with new meaning and purpose.”
For Tina, this kind of healing is a spiritual journey. And today, when she describes her son’s escape from death as a miracle, she is not speaking figuratively.
“The only reason the doctors were there was because their daughter takes piano lessons at a house there,” she said.
“They usually just drop her off and leave, but that day, the pleasant weather convinced them to take a stroll in the neighbourhood.
“They saved his life. He shouldn’t have survived it but he did. Angels – they were angels and I know God and a host of angels led them to walk that day so that they were there to help.”
Tina added that around the same time as the Kellinis were coming to her son’s rescue, some relatives were attending a church service honouring two saints who spent their lives giving the gift of healing to the masses.
She later found out that the saints had an important meaning for her family, an aunt telling Tina they saved her life many years ago.
“For me, this really is a miracle. I told Thomas angels were with him and it turned out to be true,” she said. “And I know his sister was watching over him as well.”
Tina thanked the many friends and relatives who have been at their side over the past week and asked them all to pray for Thomas.
“Pray also for my other sons who were traumatised by this,” she added. “Matthew especially, he thought his brother had died and having already lost his sister, I cannot imagine the thoughts that went through his head.”
She also asked that prayers be dedicated to the driver of the SUV, who could have done nothing to avoid the accident, and has been supporting them throughout the ordeal.