EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Sam Jacobs can’t swallow, can barely speak and has painful air bubbles beneath his skin, but the 3-year-old was improving in a Boston hospital Monday after a coloring pencil he had in his mouth damaged his tonsils and an artery in his neck, his mother said.
Sam was hurt when he and his sister, Brieanne Powers, began wrestling on the floor of their Silverwood Court apartment at about 1:30 p.m. Sunday. His mother, 29-year-old Racheal Jacobs, said she realized something was terribly wrong when Brieanne stood up and said, “Sammie has a pencil in his mouth!”
“He pulled the pencil out and opened his mouth and a huge amount of blood gushed out,” Jacobs said during a telephone interview Monday. “I took him into the bathroom, got him over the sink and put water in his mouth. It just looked like hamburger back there, the back of his throat was so damaged.”
The green coloring pencil had punctured his right tonsil and lodged near his carotid artery, his mother said. Now on pain medications and being fed intravenously in the Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital Boston, Sam was listed in fair condition Monday after being in critical condition the night before, a hospital spokes-woman said.
He is conscious and alert, but sleeps often and isn’t moving much at all, Jacobs said.
“He is doing very well. He has been at the [Boston] hospital for almost 10 hours now, and he has improved greatly, though he is still under observation for the next 24 to 48 hours,” Jacobs said Monday afternoon from the hospital. “They are worried about the injury around his artery that is causing … swelling.”
Doctors fear that surgery at this point might do more harm than good, especially since Sam is improving, Jacobs said.
“They want to watch to be sure that he doesn’t have a blood clot in the artery, which could cause an aneurysm or stroke,” Jacobs said. “When he does talk, it sounds like he has a mouthful of mashed potatoes.”
Doctors transferred Sam from Millinocket Regional Hospital to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and then to Boston Children’s Hospital on Sunday night to be certain all the medical facilities he might need were immediately available to him. An ear, nose and throat specialist at EMMC told Jacobs that Sam’s injury was the worst of its type he had ever seen, she said.
Air went through the hole in Sam’s throat and formed bubbles under the skin of his chest that make getting touched by someone very painful. He also slept a great deal through his stays at the various hospitals and trips to them, possibly because of the loss of blood or because less blood was getting through the constricted artery, Jacobs said.
The Jacobs family and its many friends are praying for Sam’s recovery, said Lori Jacobs, Sam’s aunt. Sam’s uncle, Ralph Jacobs, operates Jacobs Lighthouse Ministries of Medway, his wife said.
“We had the preschool kids pray for him this morning, and he is doing better, so that’s a good sign,” Lori Jacobs said. “He’s a smart kid. He’ll be 4 at the end of January, and he’s already started learning to read — small words like ‘cat’ and ‘hat.’ He is a good kid.”
A single mother of three children, Racheal Jacobs said she is deeply grateful for the huge outpouring of community support she has seen since word of the accident began flying around the Katahdin region Sunday afternoon. Many telephone calls and e-mails have flooded her cell phone since it happened.
“My mom is like, ‘I am sure you are going through the what-ifs about what happened,’” Jacobs recalled, “and I said, ‘As of right now, I know there wasn’t anything I could or should have done differently.’”
Jacobs had just finished cleaning the apartment and the kids had been playing together quietly when the wrestling began, she said.
“It was just one of those things,” she said. “Kids will get into all kinds of trouble and not think another thought about it.”
Correction: This article has been updated to correct that the boy is from East Millinocket, not Medway, and is 3 years old, not 4 years old.