COLUMBIA — Mesiah Olney, who will turn 1 year old Saturday, was released Monday night from the hospital, where he has been receiving treatment for injuries he sustained after a roughly 10-foot fall from a motel balcony last week.
Kim Gooshaw and her boyfriend, Kelly Olney, had been in Columbia about a week when their son had the accident.
The couple knew they wanted to leave Fairbanks, Alaska, and decided on Columbia — Olney's native home. They were living at the Super 7 Motel on Rangeline Street until they could find an affordable apartment.
At about noon Thursday, Gooshaw received the news that she'd gotten a job at Patricia's Foods, a local grocery store. Olney already had a job at McDonald's, which he'd started the day before.
After Gooshaw got the phone call, the two went outside their room on the second floor of the motel to take a smoke break and play with Mesiah.
Gooshaw stood at the stairs, about 10 feet from Mesiah and Olney, who were playing a game of tag. She said that she and Olney don't like to smoke right next to Mesiah and that they didn't allow him to play on the stairs for safety reasons.
Mesiah, who crawls faster than he walks, was on his hands and knees playing the game when he grabbed the balcony railing with one hand to pull himself to his feet.
He looked over at his mother and smiled then reached with his other hand into a gap in the balcony railing. The infant fell forward, his body suspended on a broken vertical post in the railing, which his parents said they had not noticed before. When his father reached for him, Mesiah flinched, flipped over and fell 10 to 12 feet onto his back.
"When I first saw him balancing on the bar, everything went slow motion," Gooshaw said. "I remember thinking to myself, 'This has got to be a bad dream.' I heard Kelly yell, 'Mesiah, no,' and I snapped back to reality and ran downstairs."
Gooshaw said she couldn't move as she watched her baby sit up, look at her, then fall back down and start to turn blue, struggling to breathe. Olney jumped over the balcony and started to give the infant CPR before calling 911.
An ambulance took Mesiah to the MU Trauma Center, and after an hourlong wait, his parents learned the relieving news that he was stable and breathing. Mesiah was then transferred to the Women's and Children's Hospital.
Gooshaw said she was afraid that even if he lived, he wouldn't have his memories.
But when he woke up Thursday night, he made the "Itsy-Bitsy Spider" finger motion he always used to conduct to his parents in his favorite song.
"I was like, 'Oh my God, he still has his memory. He knows who we are and his favorite song,'" Gooshaw said. "He's still Mesiah. He's still himself. He has not changed in any way, thank God."
Mesiah had two skull fractures — one from above his right eye to his hairline and another at the back of his head — and Monday was the first day swelling died down enough for him to open his right eye. He had a compression fracture between his shoulder blades, where the impact compressed his spine.
Doctors said he will make a full recovery, Gooshaw said, but he will have to have physical therapy and doctor's appointments for at least a year. Gooshaw has decided to stay at home instead of taking a job.
She said her boyfriend now plans to look for a second job.
Building code violation
The balcony railing outside the second-floor room where Gooshaw and Olney were staying is composed of vertical bars with decorative pieces between each pair. A portion of the decorative part was missing between the two bars where Mesiah fell, in violation of the city's building code.
Shane Creech, the city's building and site development manager, said the law requires that a ball with a 6-inch diameter not be able to fit between the vertical bars of a balcony railing.
The city's Building and Site Development Division issued a notice of code violation Thursday after the accident, with two days to correct the violation, Creech said. When the division checked Monday morning, the motel had replaced the gap with two vertical bars.
"It shouldn't have taken this situation to get that gate fixed," Gooshaw said.
Gooshaw said the motel has refunded the couple the cost of one night's stay for the night the accident happened. She said she hopes the motel's insurance will pay for her son's medical expenses and Olney's lost wages.
Making ends meet
Gooshaw's mother and brother have been fundraising in Alaska to get money for the family to find an apartment, and they plan to fly to Missouri on Tuesday. Gooshaw and Olney had been sleeping at the hospital, and they found a different hotel to stay in when Mesiah was released.
"We won't be going back to Motel 7, that's for sure," Gooshaw said. "I've finally got that scene to quit playing in my head. I'm not going to go back and watch it again."
Gooshaw said she and Olney are down to $200. She has received gift bags, cards with money and even phone calls from people who just want to offer comfort after seeing her phone number and request for donations in an ABC 17 News story.
"It made me want to cry when I saw how many people actually cared," Gooshaw said.
Gooshaw said the hospital is the best she's ever been to, and her flirtatious baby appears to think the same. Mesiah learned to wave hello and goodbye two days before the accident and has been enthusiastically greeting his nursing staff. His "seductive smile" and kisses make him a favorite, Gooshaw said.
"I'm just glad to know he's going to be OK — 100 percent OK," she said. "It's going to take time and stress, but he's going to be OK, and that's all I care about."
Gooshaw can be reached at 256-9420 for calls and donations.