Izaiah Wallis lies on his back, machine tubes hooked to his small body, legs stretched out and toes curled.
A white sheet of paper hangs on an aquarium-themed painted wall behind his bed, bearing a request written on his behalf by his grandmother.
“If you love me, please don’t kiss me,” it reads in blue marker. “I don’t want to end up back in the hospital.”
The Vista toddler who became paralyzed last year after a drunk-driving teenager struck him and his grandfather in Oceanside can now voluntarily move his legs, his doctor announced this week, a significant breakthrough in the 2-year-old’s recovery.
Wallis was blind and paralyzed from the chest down inside a hospital in October, the only movement in his legs involuntary.
As the sign reads, his immune system makes him still too weak to kiss; inside his aqua room, strides come clowly.
Wallis moved his hips for the first time last Tuesday, said Linda Van Kessler, founder of Passion 4 K.I.D.S.
“The room really went silent because nobody could believe they really had seen what they had seen,” Van Kessler said. “And then they did the reflex (test) to the foot, and everybody just broke into tears. Izaiah’s family was stunned.
“We’ve all been in the hospital, and we’ve seen them do that. The parents have tried, we’ve tried, and there was never any movement. For him to do this, and to do this continuously, it was just an amazing moment that everyone’s been waiting for, for eight months … There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.”
Izaiah is currently under the care of his parents, Jacob Wallis and Lucy Verde, who have learned to operate the machines that keep their son alive.
It is a 24-hour hour job, Van Kessler said.
Dr. Dennis Maness, founder of the San Diego-based BrainTek Institute, describes Izaiah’s recovery in terms of phases.
In that regard, Izaiah remains is in the earliest stage, Phase 1.
If Izaiah can one day crawl— “which he will if we have our way,” Maness said — he says a danger looms.
The toddler’s weak immune system would be jeopardized by the chemicals in the family’s Vista rental home’s carpet. Even if cleaned, the potentially hazardous chemicals in the home still exist.
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The family hopes to raise $20,000 for a down payment on a cleaner home. Donations are being raised online.
For now, the parents take their shifts to monitor his machines. They watch him move his hips, stretch his legs, curl his toes.
“As much as you want to just hug, squeeze and love on the little guy, anything that we do can spread germs,” Maness said. “I'd like to see him have the chance to get the immune system in tact, and … the opportunity to have a cleaner environment would be absolutely wonderful.
"I'd just like to see him have a fighting chance.”