ROCKPORT, Texas — Preston Simpson isn’t very different from other toddlers. He’s drawn to colorful plastic trucks and thoroughly enjoys opening presents.
But after an ATV accident led him to be flown to Driscoll Children’s Hospital in early-December, much of his world changed.
According to previous reports, Preston was on an ATV with his mother when he ended up pressing down on its accelerator, causing his mother to fall off the vehicle. Preston, still riding, eventually struck a tree, severely injuring his head. The toddler was soon airlifted to Driscoll Children's Hospital.
After surgery and almost three months of hospitalization, Preston and his family were finally able to leave Nexus Children’s Hospital in Houston on Friday, Feb. 26.
“Bringing him home was just a great experience,” his father, Tyson Simpson, said. “He instantly knew where he was at and he was very happy … That really helped me and mom.”
Although Tyson and his wife know the road ahead for their son will be difficult, dozens of Rockport locals — including police and fire — made it a point Sunday afternoon to show their support for Preston.
A planned drive-thru parade at First Baptist Church in Rockport quickly turned into a meet-and-greet for the toddler.
Kathy Ishman, a member of First Baptist, was one of the many to welcome Preston. She carried a sign with the toddler’s name.
“This town has already been through so much between Harvey and the power outage and everything else,” Ishman said. “Something like this, our family, our church family and the city of Rockport tends to come together when there’s any sort of crisis. Anytime you see it — I love this town.”
Members of the Rockport police and fire departments also made an appearance. Officers from the local sheriff’s department and the Texas Highway Patrol joined in too.
“In times of crisis, everyone comes together,” said Noah Leuschner, a Rockport Police officer who was one of the first to respond the the accident in December. “It’s not something that should be handled by just certain people or certain agencies, it’s something — especially when a child is involved — everyone that’s able to help should jump in and do everything they can.”
When Leuschner recounts getting the call, he said he was at the right place at the right time.
“We happened to be on the highway right at the road where they said the accident occurred, so I ended up being there within three or four minutes I think,” he said. “I was able to sort of help (Preston’s mother) calm down, start to stabilize (Preston.) The only thing I really could do was hold his neck still so he didn’t sustain any additional injury, and so I just did that until EMS got there and was able to put a neck brace on him and everything else.”
Although the officer didn’t know the family personally at the time of the incident, he said it’s good to see the toddler running around and acting like a child.
“Every day that we come to work, we have no idea what’s going to get dropped on our lap or we’re going to end up facing,” Leuschner said. “I’m just glad that I was able to help.”
From the first responders to overall community that turned out, Tyson said seeing that meant a lot to him and his son.
“Just knowing that there’s other people that care as much about our kid as we do — it just shows how good a community can support someone,” Tyson said. “Preston‘s been very fortunate with all of this support he’s got from everyone.”
Tyson said it’s difficult to tell if his son’s head injury will have any long-term effects. In the future, he plans to go to Illinois to visit a specialist.
Members of the Rockport community agree that they will continue to pray for Preston’s full recovery.
“This is a small community. People know each other and God uses things like this to bring us together,” Isman said. “We can all be part of that journey with him — and that’s what binds us together — that makes it something worthwhile for everybody in the community.”
If you are interested in keeping up with Preston’s recovery, or find out ways to help, you can follow the family’s Prayers for Preston page.