(CBS) — When mother and nurse Devon McCabe was at work one day, she received a terrifying and heart-wrenching call from her 3-year-old daughter, Molly. It turned out her husband had suffered a stroke, and doctors say the actions of their toddler saved his life, Devon tells CBS News.
On July 3, the family from Winchester, Virignia, was having what Devon calls “a normal day.” She and her husband, Trevor, went kayaking and swimming with their daughters like they often do. Nothing was out of the ordinary with her husband or his health.
The next day, Devon, who is a neuro-intensive care nurse, had to work. So, even though it was the Fourth of July, she waved goodbye to Trevor, Molly, and their nearly 2-year-old daughter, Maggie, and drove to Winchester Hospital for her shift.
A few hours later, she says she missed a Facetime call from Trevor, but thought nothing of it. Shortly after, she got another Facetime call. “Once I answered, I knew something was horribly wrong,” she tells CBS News. “It was my 3-year-old sobbing crying, and she was just saying, ‘Daddy, Daddy. Look at Daddy, something happen to Daddy.'” Molly then turned the phone on Trevor, who was sprawled out on the floor of their living room, unable to speak or move.
Now, over two weeks after the incident, the family has been able to piece together what happened on Independence Day. Devon says her husband was washing a bowl to pour some cereal for the kids. “He heard a loud buzzing noise and thought it was the sink. He turned it off and on again then realized it wasn’t the sink — the sound was in his head,” Devon says.
With the odd sound ringing in his ears, Trevor knew something was wrong. “He ran to his phone and got it just in time to pick it up and unlock it. But at that point, he couldn’t use his fingers to call me,” she says. Trevor then fell off the couch and onto the floor. He was conscious but couldn’t move or speak.
“He says my daughter thought he was joking… but Molly quickly realized something was wrong,” Devon says. Molly sprung into action. “She took his phone and that’s when she called me.”
Molly is still too young to read and doesn’t really know how to use a phone, Devon says. “She definitely has played with our phones a lot. She’s been a remarkably smart child — I know every parent says that — but she kind of has this photographic memory that is very striking to us.”
Devon says Molly might have learned how to use Facetime because they often call her grandparents that way. “I think she went through those motions and watched us many, many times, and she knew how to do it,” the mother says. She’s unsure how Molly knew how choose her contact in the phone, but she is grateful that she did. “Maybe she recognized my name from seeing it when my husband calls me,” Devon guessed.
When she received the shocking Facetime call, she says, “I couldn’t even think straight and I told her I was going to call our neighbor, Miss Janelle, and she would be there.”
Trevor was taken to Winchester Hospital. Doctors determined he had suffered a basilar artery occlusion, a form of acute stroke which is often fatal. He was airlifted to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he underwent a craniectomy, a procedure to relieve pressure on the brain. He then received a second surgery for his heart called the NobleStitch for PFO closure.
“85 percent of people with this type of stroke don’t survive, and those who do are typically in a vegetative state,” Devon says. Trevor was the 97th person in the country to get the type of surgery he had, and Inova Fairfax Hospital specializes in it, she tells CBS News.
The 27-year-old father of two had never experienced a health complication like this. “Every baby is born with a hole in their heart… Trevor’s hole never closed,” Devon explained. “So, he had a hole in his heart that allowed a tiny blood clot… [that] made its way to his brain.”
Trevor spent six days on life support after his surgery. This week, he was able to have his feeing tube removed and started physical therapy to learn to walk again, Devon says. “He still has his same personality and remembers everything that happened up until his brain surgery,” she says. On Thursday, Trevor was discharged and is in inpatient rehab.
The couple are both out of work as Trevor recovers. Devon set up a GoFundMe for the family to raise money during this difficult time. “We continue to be completely amazed at Trevor’s progress. The past 14 days have been such a roller coaster, but by far we are hitting this two week “anniversary” with so much gratefulness,” Devon writes.
Trevor is progressing, Devon says, but he is not the only one who needs help. The mom says Molly will also be seeing a counselor because of what she witnessed when her dad had a stroke. “She definitely had some trauma. She is afraid she will see him the way she saw him on the ground,” Devon says.
“She was alone with him for 20 minutes. It was very traumatic.” But she adds, “for the first time yesterday, she was able to play with him again.”
To celebrate Molly’s heroic action, the parents got her a superhero costume, complete with a cape and mask. They say their 3-year-old truly is their superhero.
Doctors say it will be a long road, but the dad is expected to make a full recovery. Thanks to Molly, the whole family can look forward to more happy days together.