COVINGTON - Little Nicholas Ogden, the toddler who just a few months ago was fighting for his life in a Midwest hospital, has returned home in time to celebrate the holidays with his grateful family.
Ogden, who turns 3 in February, was born with HPHS, or hypoplastic left heart syndrome, caused by an underdeveloped left heart ventricle, said his mother, Jackie Kroll-Ogden.
He went into the Oklahoma City Children's Hospital last July for what was supposed to be the last of four corrective surgeries, and almost immediately developed complications that eventually threatened his life.
A massive Facebook rally began among Kroll-Ogden's friends and the greater Covington-Blossburg community that eventually spread around the county and region, generating hundreds of praying followers, all storming the heavens for the "little fighter" to get well.
The prayers seem to have worked, along with the expert medical care the child received while a patient at the hospital and later at Janet Weis Children's Hospital, Danville.
Kroll-Ogden said Nicholas was released just a few days before Thanksgiving, arriving home Nov. 22.
One family friend in particular, Todd Berguson, owner of "Bergy's Place" pizza in Arnot, made the ride home for the family one they described as "amazing."
It was a special truck ride for a special young man, she said.
"We had a late start leaving Danville, leaving Janet Weis Children's Hospital at 1:30 p.m.," Kroll-Ogden said, "but we made it to Arnot in record time while texting Todd to let him know where we were so he could have some idea on when to be at the garage.
"When we pulled in, the truck was being washed and prepped for Nicholas' ride. I was quite concerned that Nicholas wouldn't remember, but his face lit up when he saw his Bergy Trucks!" she said.
The smile on Nicholas' face when he saw Todd let his mother know he remembered.
"Once we let Nicholas get his bearings, we loaded him up in the Peterbilt that was shiny as could be and headed to Covington," Kroll-Ogden said.
As the mini-caravan made its way to the Ogdens' home in Covington, Jackie said she "did OK until we got to West Hill Road and saw a sign and balloons at a local business that read 'Welcome Home, Nicholas.' "
"That's when the tears came rolling down my face. When we pulled up in front of our house, our neighbor and a reporter were eagerly waiting to take pictures," she added.
Kroll-Ogden said her worries that Nicholas wouldn't remember his own house disappeared when his Mimi (family friend Roxanne Landis) asked him where his house was and he pointed right to it and said, "there."
Nicholas gave his "Uncle Todd" high fives for the ride, they took some pictures and then he wanted to swing and slide on his swing set, she added.
"It was pretty chilly that day, but who could say no?" she said.
Since then, she said, Nicholas has recovered from a cold and adjusted to being back in his own bed, but the pace has not slowed down for Kroll-Ogden.
"It felt great to be home but overwhelming at the same time. Imagine four and a half months of mail, cleaning, errands, etc. waiting for you," she said, and the holidays fast approaching.
"We spent Thanksgiving with my mom and Christmas is right around the corner," she said.
The family will attend a Christmas Eve service at their church, and Kroll-Ogden said she knows it will be extra special this year, with the prayers of so many being answered on behalf of their little boy.
"People have been so wonderful, sending cards and letters with all of their well-wishes," she said. "The amount of people that take the time to stop and welcome us home when we are out in public is heartwarming. It's truly amazing how many people care so much about our little boy.
"I have a feeling Santa will be extra good to him this year. I can't thank the community ... enough for every act of kindness that has been shown to us," she added. "We continue to save every piece of mail Nicholas receives to one day show him."
Even though Nicholas is getting stronger with each passing day, Kroll-Ogden asked that people continue their prayers for steady recovery.
"It is our sincere hope that sharing Nicholas' story has helped to shed more light on congenital heart defects and that anyone who has a child ask for a (test) before leaving the hospital with their newborns," she said.
"We were lucky to find out prior to Nicholas being born, she added, "but some parents don't have that early knowledge."