FARGO, N.D. -- Support from around the country is helping a 20-month-old boy battle hypothermia, frostbite and pneumonia after wandering from his northwestern Minnesota home in the middle of the night, the boy's father said.
"These prayer chains, they're working," Brian Nelson said Wednesday. "We're in the woods, but I think we're on the right trail to get out."
Simon Nelson left his house near Hitterdal, Minn., sometime early Monday. His father found him around 4:30 a.m., about 100 yards away, lying unconscious on a concrete slab in front of the door to the shop where the boy often played.
"When I picked him up Monday morning, I was optimistic," Nelson said. "I thought he was breathing."
Simon had been coming into his parents' bedroom at night, but Brian Nelson said he didn't know the boy could open the heavy, insulated house door on his own.
The boy had been sleeping in a bed for only a few weeks after outgrowing his crib, his father said.
Emergency crews could find no pulse. A helicopter ambulance crew flew Simon about 25 miles to Fargo's MeritCare Hospital, where doctors measured his temperature at 69 degrees. A surgeon opened the boy's chest and hooked him up to a heart-lung machine to warm him.
Doctors have kept Simon sedated and restrained, to stop him from interfering with his respirator, lead pediatrician Dr. Wally Storm said Wednesday.
"He has become quite active in the last 24 hours, to the point I think if we let him, he would get up and run," Storm said.
Simon moves purposefully, the doctor said, but the extent of any damage to his brain will not be clear until he is off sedation. Long-term damage may not be known for years, until Simon reaches developmental milestones, Storm said.
"We remain cautiously optimistic about his brain recovery," said Storm, who called Simon's condition "quite serious but stable."
Storm said Simon's pneumonia worsened Tuesday night and early Wednesday. The condition of his lungs means the boy will have to stay on a respirator for a few more days and likely will be in the hospital for at least another week, he said.
Simon will need physical therapy to recover from frostbite suffered on his hands, Storm said.
Nelson said he and his wife, Janna, "haven't left the building" since Simon was admitted to the hospital. Their 4-year-old son, DeForest, has stayed with relatives.
Nelson said prayer circles that first started in Hitterdal, about 25 miles from Fargo, early Monday have spread through phone calls and e-mail.
"They've probably told me every state in the country that somebody is praying," he said.
He said the support overwhelms him.
"I come from a big family, but it's getting bigger," Nelson said.
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