Savvy Kirk, 17, kisses her father, Don Kirk, who was a victim in a hit-and-run crash last month. | Jerry Davich~Sun-Times Media
How to help
A benefit account in Don Kirk’s name has been arranged at Citizens Financial Bank branches to help his family with bills and daily necessities. Also, a spaghetti dinner fundraiser is set for Saturday, Dec. 7, at Impact Christian Church, 7071 Broadway in Merrillville. Donations are needed, welcomed and appreciated.
On Oct. 26, just after 4 p.m., Don Kirk and his twin sons were victims of a violent head-on collision in Crown Point.
A pickup truck driven by Michael Gartner, 32, of Crown Point, crossed a street’s center line and crashed into Kirk’s vehicle, police said. Gartner died in the crash and Kirk was airlifted to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill.
Within minutes after hearing the tragic news, Kirk’s wife, Dawn, wrote this post on Facebook before leaving home for the hospital: “Husband flying to Chicago — facing possible amputation of leg — knee 80% off — son broke wrist & has seatbelt injuries on stomach — other son nose bleeding … 3 different hospitals ... head-on collision — husband in induced coma — stable for now. Prayers please for husband.”
Crown Point Mayor David Uran was the first to post a comment: “Dawn — I just heard the news — our thoughts and prayers are with your entire family.”
Dozens of other friends, family members and Facebook connections quickly offered similar comments, with most of them promising prayers, too.
This kind of social media scenario is playing out every day on Facebook, which has turned into a 21st century form of old-school journaling.
Think of it: Where do many of us turn in dire straits? Facebook. Where do we pour out our hearts in despair? Facebook. What is the fastest way to request needed prayers immediately? Facebook.
“Thank you so much for praying!” Dawn wrote later that evening. “(Don) is out of surgery and is in stable condition. His leg has been reattached and he is in another induced-coma.”
Facebook, and Twitter to a lesser degree, also allows us to post continuous updates about an ongoing crisis, as Dawn has done since her husband’s near-fatal crash.
When Don arrived at that hospital via medical chopper, his right leg was essentially dangling by the back of his knee and he had to “slam” more than 10 units of blood. A hospital chaplain met Dawn when she arrived that evening.
“Don had surgery … pulled through for now … they are optimistic, I am still terrified,” she wrote on Oct. 29. “Both legs are still on him … prognosis is unknown. Thanks for all who have brought dinner. Sorry, I can’t answer personally at this time.”
Don, a 48-year-old U.S. Army veteran, was listed in critical condition. His two twin 15-year-old sons, Julius and Max, were hospitalized and released.
Dawn told me after the crash: “I am still very scared for our future but can only wait to see what Don’s mental state will be.”
Her daily updates continued to friends, family and perfect strangers who offered hourly prayers, nightly meals and round-the-clock encouragement.
On Oct. 30, Dawn wrote: “Don is not waking up yet from his sedation meds. Could be normal, could be not. Keep prayers coming PLEASE.”
Three days later, her personal plea transformed into a public service announcement of sorts: “Please wear your seat belts & hope your car model has air bags. Don’t turn them off, just put small kids in the backseat. I don’t think anyone in my family would have survived had they not been belted.”
On Nov. 4, Don’s 17-year-old daughter, Savvy, posted something in her mother’s place, accompanied by a poignant photo of her hand holding her father’s scarred hand.
“This hand belongs to the strongest man in my life. My dad however is fighting for his life. This scares me beyond anything because I can’t handle seeing my dad like this.
“I have as much hope as I can that he is going to be fine because, as my best friend said, ‘He has to see me graduate. He has to see me go to college. He has to walk me down the aisle. He has to meet his grandchildren.’ ”
The next day, Dawn posted another photo of Don, but before he was injured in the crash: “Here is my best friend of 17 years. Please come back to me, best friend.”
At times, it seemed as if Dawn was writing to herself, not others, a timeless perk of journaling from any century, any generation, any crisis.
“I hope that if Don wakes up, I can tell him about all the really, really cool things that have happened because of his accident,” Dawn wrote on Nov. 6. “Friends & family visiting together for the first time in years … all the church friends assisting me in this awfulness … my kids’ schools gifting me food & things.”
On Nov. 7, Don appeared to be waking from his induced coma: “I gave him a kiss on the face and he seemed to kiss back with a small smacking noise. I’m sure I didn’t imagine it,” Dawn wrote.
The next day, he was transferred from the ICU to a personal room: “He definitely made kissing motions towards me & our daughter!!” Dawn happily posted.
With each new day, a new update emerged from Dawn, prompting me to wonder what she would have done without Facebook to connect so often with so many people.
This past Monday, she excitedly noted that Don gave a thumb’s up to a doctor.
“He is still in very serious condition & we won’t know how much he’ll come back, but this is a positive sign. I am happy he is alive.”
Today, Don is still making slow, steady progress and Dawn is still by his side while using social media to stay connected to others. What would she have done without having Facebook?
“By phone or Morse code, I guess,” Dawn told me, via Facebook.