When 19-month-old Gunnar Davis became sick, the military community at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, came together to support one of their own.
Middle school sweethearts, Gina and Ryan Davis, moved to their first duty station at Minot AFB in March of 2017. Soon after arriving, Gina Davis found out she was expecting their first child. Gunnar was born on Jan. 18, 2018, at a healthy weight of 9 pounds 2 ounces.
The year 2019 has not been easy for the Davis family. “I lost my mother unexpectedly at the age of 46,” shared Gina Davis, whose 18-year-old brother, Austin, moved in with her and her family due to the sudden loss. “Two weeks later, Ryan and I suffered a miscarriage at eight weeks pregnant.” Gina Davis states, “One month after the first miscarriage, we suffered another miscarriage.”
One week after their second miscarriage, duty called and Senior Airman Ryan Davis had to go on a temporary duty assignment to England, leaving his grief-stricken wife, brother-in-law and 19-month-old son, Gunnar, back home.
A turn of events
Friday, Sept. 6, Gunnar began coughing and looking lethargic. His mother kept a close eye on him and was quick to notice that, by Saturday evening, he had developed a fever of 98.6. Within one hour, the fever had spiked to 104 and he suffered a seizure. After an EMT assessed him, Gina Davis decided to take Gunnar to the emergency room at the downtown hospital, but he was soon discharged after being given Tylenol.
Sunday night, Gunnar’s conditions got worse. “He wouldn’t eat or drink, he was vomiting and couldn’t move,” Gina Davis said. “He developed a rash that looked like pinpoint bruises just under the skin. I’ve done my research on medical conditions since becoming a mom and having a weakened immune system myself, I knew it was meningitis.”
Davis rushed Gunnar to the ER and, once there, her maternal instincts kicked in again when the doctor was skeptical about giving Gunnar a spinal tap, which Davis insisted he needed.
After the doctor and nurses saw that Davis wouldn’t budge, they agreed to perform a spinal tap. “She did the tap and, as soon as she saw the spinal fluid, she knew,” Davis added. “The entire room turned into chaos. There were people running around everywhere and hooking him up to monitors. Within the hour, they had us on a plane going to Fargo.”
A fight against bacterial meningitis
Although bacterial meningitis is rare in children of Gunnar’s age, he still contracted it as he was too little to get the vaccine, which Gina Davis urges parents to look into. According to the Mayo clinic website, meningitis is “an inflammation of the membranes (meninges) surrounding your brain and spinal cord.” Bacterial meningitis is caused by bacteria that “enter the bloodstream and travel to the brain and spinal cord.” In the United States, one in 100,000 people is diagnosed with bacterial meningitis every year.
Once at Sanford Children’s Hospital in Fargo, which is five hours away by car from Minot, Davis tried reaching her husband in Europe to let him know what was happening. Their son had arrived almost unresponsive due to brain and spinal swelling. Within the hour, his supervisor reassured her that Senior Airman Davis was on a flight to Minot.
Gunnar was placed on antibiotics, steroids and even morphine to help with the excruciating pain he was in. His father drove the five hours to the hospital once he arrived in Minot and was finally reunited with his family.
On Friday, Sept. 13, Gunnar’s condition started to finally improve. His bloodwork showed that his liver function was back to normal and the doctors were hopeful. “We’re not out of the woods yet,” said Gina Davis. “Gunnar is at high risk for life threatening seizures due to the swelling of his brain and spinal cord. But he’s responding well to antibiotics and pain medication.”
“Operation Gunnar” begins
As soon as the military community at Minot Air Force Base heard that one of their families had been hit with such tragedy, they quickly did what they do best: they gathered together and made the Davis family their priority. Quickly, they began delivering food to Austin, who due to being exposed to the bacterial meningitis, had been quarantined to the Davis’s family home with their dogs.
They also collected toys, blankets, books, clothes and food to donate to the Davis family in Fargo, volunteering to personally deliver the gifts for what is now known as “Operation Gunnar.”
“My mom always said, ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ And our village over at Minot Air Force Base rocks!” Gina Davis said. Now that they are out of the hospital and back home, the Davis family is relieved to be surrounded by their military village.
Meanwhile, Gina Davis’s father-in-law, Jim, sat up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money in an effort to help the family face the financial burden this situation has suddenly put them in. People can contribute to it here.Read comments