STANFORD — An 8-year-old boy who was severely injured during a church hayride is recuperating at home after a nearly three-week stay in the hospital.
Jalen Smith of Stanford was airlifted to the University of Kentucky Children's Hospital Sept. 16 after his leg was crushed in an accident during a hayride.
Jalen's mother, Jacqueline Smith, said the accident broke both of the main bones in Jalen's leg.
Jalen underwent four surgical operations, including a muscle transplant, nerve reconstruction and two skin grafts, Jacqueline said.
The pain of Jalen's injury was extreme, and remains a major issue even now that he's home.
"It has been the most difficult thing I've ever been through as a parent to have to watch him be in pain," Jacqueline said. "It's been very difficult."
While he was in the hospital, Jalen was visited by countless friends and had special visits from UK Wildcats' wide receiver Aaron Boyd, Lexington Fire Department firefighters and others.
Doctors have told Jalen he cannot put any weight on his broken leg for eight more weeks. While he is currently wheelchair-bound, Jacqueline said it's possible Jalen may be able to begin using crutches next week, at which point he could begin some physical therapy.
While at home, he has a bed set up in the living room and he finds comfort in visits from friends, watching ESPN and playing XBox, Jacqueline said.
There is no estimate at the moment for how long it will take for Jalen to recover full use of his leg.
"They said it really just depends on his rehab, on how well he does," Jacqueline said.
Following news of Jalen's injury, there has been a massive outpouring of support from the local community and from around the nation.
Jacqueline said last time she counted, people from 28 states and at least four different countries had heard of Jalen's situation and pledged to pray for him via the Facebook group "Praying for Jalen."
Get-well cards, food and other gifts have flowed in from the local community and one man from Jalen's church even built a wheelchair ramp for him that was installed and ready to go when he got home from the hospital Friday.
"It's been unbelievable," Jacqueline said. "You know that people care about you, but when something like this happens and that many people step up and offer help and support and prayers, it's remarkable."
Jalen's father, J, said the family doesn't have a handle yet on how much the medical bills for Jalen's treatment will total, but it will be "a bunch."
A fundraiser to help Jalen's family pay his medical bills has been scheduled for 1-5 p.m. Oct. 28 at the L&N Depot in Stanford.
The fundraiser will include a corn hole tournament, silent auction, zumba and many other events.
Jacqueline said the experience has taught her to never take anything for granted.
"You never imagine your child getting on a hayride and it turning out like this, with him facing what he's facing now," she said. "You never know day-to-day what's going to happen."