Emmanuel Jombu, a 9-year-old boy, is back home and recovering after being struck by a car less than a block away from his home.
At the hospital, Emmanuel was showered with toys and gifts wishing him a quick recovery.
At his bedside, his mother mashed food in a ceramic cup, swirled it into liquid, and sucked it up into a syringe.
Placing a plastic straw on the inside of his cheek, she slowly squeezed the syringe and fed her son.
Trena Miller, social worker with Kansas City Police Department who has been working closely with the family for a year and a half, asked Emmanuel if he was excited to finally get to go home.
With missing teeth and his jaw wired shut, he nodded his head and slowly said “Yes, I want to go home.”
The accident happened Sunday, August 4, just past 6 p.m.
The driver, heading westbound at the intersection of Smart Avenue and Spruce Avenue, never stopped— leaving Emmanuel in the street, unconscious.
After miraculously surviving, he spent four days in a local hospital recovering from a broken jaw, a head injury, and injured arm.
In his hospital room, coloring books, crayons, Play-Doh, and an iPad sat near his bed.
A nurse helped walk him to a wheelchair and pushed him to the front lobby, with toys, a giant teddy bear, a dinosaur balloon, and three bags of medicine in tow.
Miller, who volunteered to bring the mother and son home from the hospital, helped them load their belongings into her vehicle and headed to their home in Northeast Kansas City.
On the drive back, as Miller passed the exact spot he was hit, the boy leaned over and looked out the window. Pink spray paint and caution tape were still on the ground.
He looked back at his mom, put his finger to his chest and mouthed the word “Me?”
She slowly nodded her head and the boy looked back out the window, eyes wide.
The Jombu family, originally from Uganda, Africa, has been in the United States for three years. The mother and father speak no English.
Their four boys, including Emmanuel, have learned to translate Swahiili to English and back again to interpret for their parents.
The boys range in age from six to fourteen and attend public schools in the Northeast.
While their previous life in Africa is not discussed much, Miller said the boys have seen more violence than anyone should.
She said her green jeep was terrifying to the boys at first.
“These green military-style vehicles are what people drive, that kill people in Uganda,” Miller said.
The boys have admitted to seeing several family members killed in Africa.
In order to gain their trust, she said she had to let the boys inside the vehicle and search through it, opening up consoles and glove boxes, to make sure it was safe.
The last year and a half, Miller has taken on the family as part of her role as the social worker embedded in the East Patrol zone.
But Miller said it’s become much more than that.
Originally, the boys encounter with the police was due to neighborhood mischief. An older boy had urged the younger ones to steal items from nearby homes: phones, cash, anything the boys could grab quickly that was lying around.
After the boys were confronted, a neighbor took the opportunity to get them in contact with Miller.
Instantly, it became clear that the children were in need of help. They owned no socks, no shoes, and no toys.
“They’d run barefoot across the hot pavement in the middle of summer,” one neighbor said.
Miller said she knew she had to get to work.
She brought the boys a soccer ball from the Police Athletic League, silly string, sidewalk chalk, clothing, bedding, and school supplies.
Over the last year and a half, Miller has reached into her own pocket to take the boys to Sporting KC games, movie theatres, out to lunch, and to movie night at East Patrol.
“We fell in love with them and stayed in touch,” said Miller. “All the officers at East Patrol have come to know these kids . East Patrol has just rallied around this family.”
Miller said officers have made monetary donations to support the family during this time and she has worked to make sure the boys have all the school supplies they need for the upcoming school year.
After hearing about the accident, a neighbor decided to create a Facebook fundraiser for the family.
She said the idea was to help the family with a few bills while Emmanuel was in the hospital.
Very quickly, she realized her original goal would be exceeded and was astonished to see the response of neighbors and family members wanting to show support.
“They’re really good kids,” she said. “They deserve every chance. That’s why I jumped in. The last thing I wanted was for them to have any medical bills or need food.”
Her husband said the boys are like a team of superheroes.
“You’ve got the brainy one, you’ve got the really funny one, you’ve got the kind of mischievous one who is really smart, and then Emmanuel, he’s the one who can calm everyone down. He’ll hang back when you’re having a conversation, but when he chimes in, it’s hilarious,” he said.
While Emmanuel is home recovering, the accident has spurred more conversation among neighbors about speeding in the area.
Scott Wagner, director of Northeast Alliance Together (NEAT), said he sent a request to Public Works Traffic Division and the new PIAC administrator to determine if there have been any requests related to speed control infrastructure in the area.
In a recent email, Wagner mentioned a serious-injury incident that happened last October in which four teenagers in a car crashed into a house at the intersection of Smart and Jackson, causing the house to catch fire.
Neighbors say they would love to see some type of infrastructure to fix the speeding issue.
Until then, the Jombu family and neighbors will continue to care for Emmanuel during his recovery.