Thursday, June 5, 2014
Kalume family (Photo from Indiegogo site)
THOMSON, Ga. (WRDW) -- Before one quadruplet with autism wandered away from his home and drowned in a nearby pond, his family started a fund to build a fence surrounding the home.
Boy drowns in Thomson
Jeremiah Parker-Ngoy Kalume, 7, was found in a pond on Old Milledgeville Road and Wrens Highway shortly before 6 p.m. on Wednesday after he went missing just hours before, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said.
Searchers pulled him out of the water and tried CPR at the scene, the GBI said. Doctors tried again at the hospital, but had no luck.
"Mother of autistic quads struggling to keep kids safe and together during divorce."
After years of infertility, the family was shocked, but blessed, to add four new plates to the dinner table, the page said. The family's roof was blown off by a tornado before the quadruplets were born. Deborah Kalume, the mother, said she had a stroke in 2009 that paralyzed her left side.
One of the three boys, which one was not specified, had escaped the family's home before, the site said.
On May 31, an Indiegogo page was created to raise $2,780 for a 6 foot "unclimbable fence" and an additional $2,650 for a used play system.
Fund still open
The Indiegogo funds was still open as of Thursday afternoon. The "Keeping the Kalume quads together and safe" page is looking for $5,863 and is nearly halfway there.
Family friend speaks out
Five years ago an unlikely connection made them friends when Deborah Kalume showed up as a stroke patient in medical student LaShon Sturgis' class.
"The entire GRU community sponsored that family and raised over $4,000 for them, not just for toys, but for food and things that they needed at that time to help them through," Sturgis remembered.
It was much needed help for a mother of quadruplets, one girl, three boys, all the boys autistic and non-verbal.
"For someone who had recently had a debilitating stroke and four two-year-olds, I could only imagine," Sturgis said.
Now that friendship has turned into a blessing at a time the Kalume family needs one the most.
"I can't imagine dealing with that on a day to day basis, then them having to process losing one of the four and trying to communicate through that," Sturgis said.
Wednesday, Jeremiah Kalume wandered off. After hours of searching, neighbors found him in the pond across from his Thomson home. His drowning happened just days after their mother launched a campaign to raise money to build a protective fence around their home.
"She knew the difficulties and the challenges her children had. Though she didn't have the money herself, she was doing all she knew to do to get help to try and protect all four of her children," Sturgis said.
She set up an Indiegogo account where people can donate, but the money wasn't just for a fence. She also wanted to get tablets with games specifically for autistic kids and a playset she could put inside the fence.
"She doesn't want to take them to the park because she doesn't want them to wander off from the park, so that's why she wants a playset," explained Sturgis.
Those additions are now more important than ever after a Facebook post on the mother's account reveals DFACS has put the children in foster care, leaving a mother aching to put her family back together.
Jeremiah's two brothers also have autism and autistic kids have a tendency to wander. So, as they're coping with the loss of one they're focused on keeping the other siblings safe.
"That's her strength right now, worrying about Aza, Anna and Abe, trying to make sure they're OK, trying to get them all back together under one roof," Sturgis said.
Even amidst the tragedy, Sturgis says there's no one to blame.
"I would only want to be a fraction of the mother she is to her kids to my own," she said.
In a post on Facebook, Deborah posted "I have been inundated with calls and well wishes and appreciate the love immensely, but I am exhausted and trying to focus on the others for now."
The GBI is investigating the drowning. Special Agent Pat Morgan calls it a tragic incident. So far there are no charges.