Canyon Davis

Canyon Davis, 12, talks about delivering approximately 70 care packages to residents of a nursing home in Abingdon, Virginia.

ABINGDON, Va. — Struck with a life-threatening physical ailment only days after birth that affected him for the first five years of his life, a 12-year-old Abingdon boy has made a full recovery and now works to pay it forward.

When Canyon Davis was born, there was no indication of the problems to come. But when he was only 8 days old, his intestines basically flipped upside down within his abdomen.

“It’s like a bad lottery that you win,” said his mother, Emily Davis. “It’s something that can happen at any point in your life, which is kind of terrifying. It can just happen. Your intestines decide to flip.”

This rotation caused a twist in the infant’s intestines, which cut off the blood supply to part of the organ. Canyon had to have emergency surgery to remove 65 percent of his small intestine.

The surgery was the beginning of a long, difficult road to Canyon’s recovery. His mother and father stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Johnson City for three months while Canyon was in ICU at the hospital. Rigged up to feeding tubes and IVs, Canyon was put on the transplant list at Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital but could not even be moved for three months.

“They told us he wouldn’t make it to his first birthday, and he did,” Davis recalled. “He surprised everyone.”

Canyon had to remain on a feeding tube and an IV until he was 5 years old. Trips to the hospital were a regular part of his life — the family had to go to the Roanoke hospital at least once a month, more if there were complications.

“It was hard managing him,” Davis admitted. “You could accidentally pull the IV out, and he’d have to have surgery. Anytime you moved him, it was like moving a porcelain doll. He had 13 surgeries just for the IV line.”

She recalls one time when he was in a baby swing that rocks the child back and forth, and the swing pulled the line out. Canyon’s father Jonathan remembers one time he was doing a dressing change — the first time he’d ever done it — and he accidentally cut right through the IV line. Incidents like these always required a trip back to the hospital in Roanoke.

When Canyon was 2 years old, the Davises moved into their home in Abingdon, which was provided by Habitat for Humanity. Between Canyon’s ongoing health struggles and his father being on disability, the family faced financial hardship — the house was like a godsend for them. The playground in the backyard was a donation from the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Finally, after five years of fighting to keep Canyon alive, he crossed a threshold, and the feeding tube and IVs were removed. He is doing so well that he has been taken off the transplant list and now basically lives a normal life other than checkup visits. The only ongoing challenge is to get weight on him as he is below the growth curve, but he is a happy, healthy young man. Though he doesn’t remember anything about the trauma he went through in his first five years, he knows how much people did for him, and now he’s paying it forward.

Last year, Canyon visited the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center in Johnson City, Tennessee, and the Commonwealth Senior Living facility in Abingdon with his school, Cornerstone Christian Academy. These trips sparked an interest for Canyon — an opportunity to help others. So this past December, he got an idea to put together bags of goodies for all the seniors at Commonwealth Senior Living.

“I realized that those elderly don’t get a lot,” Canyon explained. “Veterans are taken care of and kids are taken care of, but I just felt like the elderly didn’t get much.”

So he formulated a plan.

“He woke up one Saturday morning, and I get out of bed and he’s already got papers written up about it,” his mother said with a smile. “He said, ‘This is what I’m doing, this is how I’m going to do it.’ He already had it all planned out.”

Canyon called the facility and found out how many seniors lived at the facility and made bags for all 70 of the residents. He spent about a month collecting donations and then had a packing party with friends and family. They lined bags up on the table and made an assembly line, filling the bags with items including toothpaste, toothbrushes, Bibles, lotion, pens, socks, tissues, glasses cleaner and more. On Dec. 21, he delivered the bags to the residents, who were all excited to see him coming and called him Santa Claus.

“It felt really good,” Canyon said. “One lady said it was the best gift she had ever received.”

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