8-year-old Grant County boy continues recovering after kayak accident

Published: Jun. 28, 2020 at 7:32 PM EDT
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GRANT COUNTY, W. Va. (WHSV) - May 17 began as a normal Sunday for the Shirk family, Gary, Monica, Joshua, and Abigail.

The family enjoyed lunch together and later joined other family members to go kayaking in Hardy County, a usual activity for the Shirks.

Only minutes into kayaking, all but one kayak got stuck in an undertow and capsized, including 8-year-old Joshua’s.

“He had gotten his life vest stuck in the down debris,” Monica said. “The thing that was supposed to save him got him stuck.”

Joshua was underwater, tangled, and stuck on debris for 5 to 10 minutes.

Monica’s brother-in-law attempted several times to save him, but the strong current and weak branches kept snapping, sending him floating down the river. Finally, on the fifth try, Monica said Joshua was freed.

After 40 minutes of non-stop CPR and being rushed to Grant Memorial Hospital, the Shirks experienced a miracle.

“The nurse screamed, ‘Doctor stat, we have a pulse.‘”

Monica said patients like Joshua usually experience brain swelling for 72 hours before peaking, but Joshua’s brain swelled for six days.

“It was swelling so bad that part of his brain started to go into the brain stem, which could be fatal,” Monica said.

Doctors told the Shirk family that Joshua’s best-case scenario in recovery would put him in a vegetative state, but they continued to pray.

“He started responding to commands, squeezing fingers, pushing legs,” Monica said. “He’s gone from not taking anything in his mouth to taking just a little bit of water, to a lollipop.”

Monica said while Joshua can’t speak, he is able to communicate by blinking.

To keep family and friends updated on Joshua’s journey, the Facebook page “He’s Fighting, We’re Believing” was created, which has gained 17,000 followers from across the world, all praying for his recovery.

“I try to just look at how far he’s come and the blessing that I look at as God has double-blessed my husband and I because He gave [Joshua] back to us,” Monica said.

Joshua has now transitioned to a rehab facility where he has daily speech, occupational, and physical therapy sessions.

“I feel peace about the situation, that he’s going to be okay,” Monica said. “He going to have a long road ahead of him. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, but I’m here to be with him every step of the way.”

To follow Joshua’s recovery journey, click here, or to help support his medical costs, click here.

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