JACKSON COUNTY -- For the first time in days, Emily Saucier's son Zander reached out to her for a hug from his bed in a Mobile hospital's pediatric intensive care unit.
Saucier said it was the best moment she's experienced since her 3-year-old was rushed by ambulance to the hospital with critical injuries during a visit to his father.
"They stopped any sedation this morning," Saucier said Thursday. "He no longer has a catheter and he's off a ventilator. He's still on oxygen and has a feeding tube, but the doctors are pretty confident he will make a full recovery.
"We will just take it one day at a time. We are keeping a good eye on him and will go from there."
Zander's father, Nathan Blake McCrory, 24, is being held at the Jackson County jail without bond on felony charges of child abuse and marijuana cultivation in the case. According to affidavits, McCrory hit Zander with such force one of the child's lungs collapsed and his liver was punctured. He also is accused of burning the boy's arm. McCrory's family disputes the allegations, saying he would not harm his child and the boy likely fell down a flight of stairs at McCrory's home in the East Central community.
'Get him better'
Saucier said she and her family are focusing on the boy's healing and recovery.
"It's been hard," she said. "It's been stressful. I'm now getting a little bit more sleep each night and I'm holding down food better. I've been very emotional. Nobody should have to see their child in a hospital. My main goal right now is to get him better so we can go home and get back to a normal life."
McCrory's mother called 911 to have an ambulance take Zander to Singing River Hospital on Sunday night after her son told her he'd fallen down a flight of stairs at his home on Jim Shumoch Road.
Hospital officials alerted Jackson County deputies because the injuries were inconsistent with a fall. Zander was unresponsive and had bruises on his body.
A day later, he was airlifted to USA Women's and Children's Hospital in Mobile, where he remained in critical condition Thursday.
His mother said his condition will not be upgraded until he's out of ICU, she's hoping in the coming days.
She said her son got a little playful Thursday with her and his uncle Jimmy Spears, whom the boy affectionately refers to as Unc.
Unc and Zander played for a minute, batting some Spider-Man get-well balloons back and forth until Zander drifted off to sleep.
"He gets upset here and there because he wants to get out of the bed," Saucier said. "Every time we talk to him, he opens his eyes. He nods yes and no. He even actually played on my phone a little bit today," watching his favorite Spider-Man video on YouTube.
She said her son is starting to rest a little better and the improvements seem to be continuing.
A special thanks
Saucier and Spears extended their thanks on behalf of the family for the overwhelming support they've received from friends, relatives, their church and the community.
Spears said people have sent gift cards for food and donations such as blankets for warmth, to help them during their hospital stay.
"I get choked up trying to put into words how the community, our church family and just strangers have reached out to help us," he said. "There are not enough words to say a proper thanks."
He said Taco Sombrero in Gulfport called to say it would deliver the family dinner Friday night.
In addition, Saucier said relatives have driven hours to be with her and her son, and her church, Nugent United Methodist Church in Gulfport, has offered prayers and collected donations.
A GoFundMe.com account has been set to help with medical expenses. Donations also may be made in the name of Zander Saucier at The First bank branch at O'Neal Road and U.S. 49.
'Worry about the other stuff later'
As for the criminal case and allegations against the boy's father, Saucier said she's focused only on her son right now.
"Any mother having to find something out like this is terrible," she said. "No matter the situation, it has been God-awful. My main concern is getting my son well and getting him home and we will worry about the other stuff later."