What started as a simple tour through the Baton Rouge General Hospital for third and fourth graders at Park Medical Academy turned into a reunion from a night that changed a child’s life one year ago.
Jessica Canning, a BRG employee and volunteer first responder, was one of the tour guides and she recalled one young boy showing hesitancy to walk into one of the ambulance service stations set up in the hospital.
“When we turn the corner, there was one little boy in the group who kind of hesitated to go in the room,” Canning said. “And I said, ‘It’s okay, I’ll stay back with you, you know, just everything okay’? And he said, ‘Well, I’ve seen all this before and I had a really bad car wreck’.”
Canning didn’t realize that she had helped on the scene at the accident the boy was referring to until he mentioned where it happened.
“He said it was a really bad car accident but it wasn’t here. It was in Livonia,” Canning recalled. “And immediately when he said Livonia, I lost it. I was like, ‘Oh my god. I know who you are’.”
The realization hit Canning that the young man was Edward Foster Jr., who she helped save from the accident in August 2021.
Foster, 9, who was 8-yrs-old when the accident happened, suffered a severe head injury and he was in a coma for two weeks.
“It was just amazing to see him at school alive with his friends,” Canning said through tears. “I hadn’t seen him since that night. We pulled the report from the accident. It was him, his brother, his mom and her friend, and he was the worst off. And so my daughter, who is an EMT at Acadian, took him into the ambulance and worked him until airmen got there. So we have to breathe for him. It’s just an elaborate ordeal to keep him alive until the helicopter landed.”
Foster’s mother Ashleigh Reardon Parmelee was also injured in the crash and taken to an area hospital following the crash.
“He (Foster) had a head injury,” Parmelee said. “Me and him were DOA. We were pretty much dead on arrival. He was in a coma for two weeks. He didn’t eat. He didn’t walk, didn’t talk. He didn’t do anything. He is a miracle. People were like, ‘You know, we just don’t think he’s gonna make it’ and I was like, ‘Well, that’s not what God told me’.”
Parmelee said her son, who they call Junior, spent two weeks in the hospital in Baton Rouge before he was moved to New Orleans. She recalled how difficult it was knowing he was suffering but feeling helpless because she was recovering from her own injuries.
“It was kind of hard because like, you want to be there for your child so much, but you’re hospitalized too and you can’t be with them,” she said. “Once they moved him to New Orleans, I mean, he hit the ground running as soon as he got there. He pretty much started to function again.”
She said her son had to learn basic functions all over again.
“More than anything, it was kind of the cognitive portion of the brain that was injured,” she said. “So it was relearning and retraining him the do’s and don’ts of life.”
Foster suffered a fractured skull and a metal plate had to be put in his head. Parmelee said she kept her son out of sports for a year following the accident.
She said the accident didn’t only affect junior, it affected his older brother as well, although he did not get hurt in the accident.
“I think that a lot of it has to boil down to my oldest son as well,” Parmelee said. “He was 10 at the time, and he was the only one who wasn’t injured. So he was in the middle of the street like flagging people down to stop and you know she (Canning) was there with my child. Junior was physically hurt but Jacobie was more like traumatized by all you know. So, she is an angel. She was with my child trying to keep him from seeing more than what he had already seen and just on the sidelines praying with my child while I couldn’t be a mom, you know. And I think that the world needs more people like that.”
Canning said seeing Junior at the hospital during the tour and talking with him made her think about how unique the situation was.
“You know the police write their reports and we leave and you just never know what happened,” she said. “So you know something that was so life changing for him is also life changing for you. And you just go on to the next thing. You just pray that everything works out for them but you always wonder what happened.”
Parmelee and Canning said the accident will forever tie their families together.
“In my heart, it just made me smile because it’s like some people never get the chance to thank who saved their life and we got to do that,” Parmelee said. “And not only did we get to do that, but we get to live life and love on those people. You know, and we’re gonna, you know, I guess be like one big happy family and everybody doesn’t get a chance to do that. Everybody doesn’t survive.”