A LITTLE lad spent 74 days on life support and was given just a five per cent chance of survival after a simple cough turned out to be a killer infection.
Four-year-old Kierkan McNeely woke up at night spluttering so his mum and dad, Amanda and Kevin McNeely, both 31, took him to see the local doctor.
He was treated with steroids for suspected croup cough, a common virus, and sent on his way following the appointment at 8am.
But by 5pm Kierkan had been rushed to Arkansas Children's Hospital in an ambulance after Kevin, a Walmart tire fitter, noticed his son was struggling to breathe.
Doctors discovered that Kierkan's lungs had collapsed and immediately placed him in a coma in the ICU where his health rapidly declined.
Blood tests later revealed he was suffering from a strep A infection and that had entered his bloodstream and was causing his heart, lungs and kidneys to fail - meaning the boy's life was hanging in the balance.
Just 24 hours after he was first admitted, Keirkan's parents watched in horror as doctors attempted to revive their son whose heart had stopped beating.
Medics were forced to place him on dialysis and an ECMO machine, a device which replaces the function of the heart and lungs, to keep him alive.
Recalling the ordeal, Amanda said: "My husband and I were in the room when Kierkan coded, watching these doctors perform CPR on him.
Amanda added: "It all happened so fast it was such a horrible blur.
"Although they had placed him on the ECMO machine to help support his heart and his lungs, doctors told us it wasn't enough.
"They told us that if they didn't cut open his chest and connect the machine directly to his heart he wouldn't be alive in three hours.
"It was such a high-risk surgery and his chances were as low as five per cent.
"We just prayed hard that we wouldn't lose him."
Doctors slowly began to pull Kierkan out of his induced coma on March 26, more than three and a half months after he was admitted to hospital on December 12.
"It was amazing to be able to finally hold him again," Amanda said.
"He doesn't really remember anything, but as a parent it was such a relief to just see him turn a corner after those awful months."
Although Kierkan was extubated on April 5 his lungs remained too weak to support his body and he was fitted with a tracheotomy and ventilator to help him breathe.
He spent a further two months on the rehab ward before he was finally able to go home on July 28, almost eight months after the horror infection ravished his body.
The brave boy was finally strong enough to have his trach tube removed in September 2016, and returned to school for the first time in almost four years in September 2017.
The first grader is awaiting surgery on June 11, to help repair his voice box which was damaged by intubation.