BELGRADE — Mary McLaughlin will never forget the night she drove her niece to the hospital to be with her baby boy.

Jennifer Godin’s 3-year-old son was sent flying into a ditch on Nov. 12 when a pickup truck hit his baby-sitter and the stroller she was pushing him in as they walked along Route 135. Police have said the crash happened about 5 p.m. near 130 Manchester Road.

“I’ll never forget that long, dark drive that night,” McLaughlin said. “I took her (Godin) down to Portland. And I never dreamed that I’d be the one to be able to bring him home. … I’m thankful he’s alive, but it isn’t over by any means. It’s going to be a long haul.”

The 13-year-old sitter was out walking with Kolten James Godin-Churchill and his two older brothers, Kaleb, 4, and Khamren, 9. The two oldest boys were not hit, but Kolten suffered severe injuries.

Kolten had numerous broken bones, the most severe in his upper spine near the brain stem, according to McLaughlin. His head was detached from his spine.

Kolten was taken by helicopter to Maine Medical Center in Portland. The sitter was transported to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. She also is home from the hospital but will need reconstructive facial surgeries.

McLaughlin said Kolten has been home for just over a week and is in a wheelchair.

Doctors said Kolten is lucky to be alive. A neurological surgeon fused one of Kolten’s rib bone to his spine to reattach the base of his skull to his spine, McLaughlin said, and Kolten also suffered some nerve damage in his left shoulder and a broken leg.

When Godin arrived at the scene, she said the stroller was still laying on top of her son.

“He had on his big winter jacket; his face was covered in blood,” Godin said. “They had to put him in the back of an ambulance to stabilize him while they waited for LifeFlight (helicopter). They just shook their heads and couldn’t tell me he was OK.”

Godin said her son will have to keep a brace on for three months while he’s recovering at home and has a therapist come to the house to help rehabilitation.

“There could be long-term effects from the brain injury,” Godin said. “It could take up to a couple of years to learn about the effects. But who knows? We might be lucky.”

Godin said her son is in good spirits for the most part, but does have his down days.

“He’s good for about three days and then things don’t go right with him and he’s fussy,” she said. “He has two older brothers, and he’s always right in the middle of them. He’s soaking up all the attention from them now. They’re a big help.”

Lori Yotides, of Christy’s Country Store in Belgrade, helped set up an account at Skowhegan Savings Bank to help Godin, a single mom, with expenses. Donation jars for Kolten can be found at Christy’s on Route 27 in Belgrade, Day’s Store in Belgrade Lakes and the Treasure Chest in Waterville.

“He’s covered (by insurance) for medical. This is for her rent, heat, lights and food … extras she needs,” Yotides said. “It’s strictly for him and to keep a roof over his head and make sure they’re warm for the winter.”

Yotides said she hopes the community can pitch in and organize fundraiser for the family, possibly a benefit supper.

“I never dreamed of this happening as far as the community helping,” McLaughlin said. “I’ve been here 9 1/2 years, but Jen’s only been here since February. She rents the house across the street from me. She hasn’t been able to work for a month. She’s with him 24-7 and therapy’s already started.”

Godin said she is thankful for all the support her family has received from the community, “for the emotional support and the donations and all their thoughts and prayers.”

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

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