TYNDALL - Watching 6-year-old Eagan Hudson playing darts, eating candy and running around the Tyndall Community Center on Saturday, one would never guess he'd been released from the hospital just one month earlier.
Bon Homme County residents and others from as far away as Wisconsin filled the community center and raised more than $50,000 during the benefit for Eagan and his family, according to James Torsney, one of the event's organizers.
The benefit was held to help pay medical bills, which the family incurred when Eagan was taken to Sanford Children's Hospital in Sioux Falls for treatment of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), believed to be caused by an E. coli infection.
"It was really hard, and I had to go through lots of pain. It was not fun," said Eagan, of Tyndall. "I just had all those doctors help me, and everything went good."
Eagan and his brother, Kalem, 4, contracted E. coli in the middle of September. Kalem's illness was resolved fairly quickly, his parents said, but Eagan's condition didn't improve. By Oct. 6, platelet and kidney tests raised red flags, and doctors sent Eagan to Sioux Falls for treatment.
Three days later, Eagan suffered a stroke, which temporarily prevented him from moving his right arm and leg, and he started having seizures the following morning.
Doctors had medication flown in from six hours away, and Eagan was sedated for 10 days, during which he was given nonstop dialysis treatments. His father, Ross Hudson, was worried he might not pull through.
"You always think about that, but just hold to your faith and pray and you'll pull through. He's a lot stronger than either Miranda or I, I know that, and I'm thankful for that," Ross said.
But Eagan woke up and began to recover. He was released from the hospital on Oct. 31 and sent to Lifescape for five days of rehab and occupational therapy before coming home.
Throughout the process, the Hudsons said their faith kept them going.
"We prayed for one thing, and it was there. We prayed for another thing, and it was there," Miranda said. "It was desperate moment to desperate moment of needing prayer."
And the Hudsons also expressed thanks to the community for giving them so much support.
"I know 95 percent of the people here in some way shape or form," Ross said. "If people didn't want to do it, they wouldn't be here. They wouldn't have come."
Scott Bares, Torsney and eight other friends of the Hudsons started planning Saturday's benefit shortly after Eagan was hospitalized. Community members served beef brisket sandwiches, sold 40 items during a live auction and sold more than 60 more items in a silent auction. Some of the products included guns, Minnesota Vikings football game tickets and puppies.
"When Eagan got diagnosed with this, it was pretty grim early, and we kind of rolled the dice and hoped to God he was going to be able to be here (Saturday) night, and that's the case," Bares said.
But many community members saw Eagan before Saturday's event. Bares said Eagan stood in the front row during his school's Christmas concert Tuesday night. He didn't know all the songs, but he smiled nonetheless.
"You can tell he's been ill, but he had a big smile on his face," Bares said. "It was kind of cute."
Eagan's aunt, Melissa Bruna, was in attendance Saturday night and called the event "amazing."
"You live in this small community, and you don't know how many lives you touch until something like this happens," Bruna said.
Bares expected 300 to 400 people to show up Saturday and hoped to raise $25,000, but his expectations proved low thanks to overwhelming community support.
Torsney said approximately 450 people attended the event, and the community fundraiser netted about $50,000. In addition, nearly $10,000 more was accumulated via donations sent to a bank account dedicated to the cause.
"We just feel loved," Miranda said.
The Hudsons have another doctor appointment scheduled Thursday for more lab tests. Eagan's HUS is believed to have been caused by the E. coli, rather than an atypical genetic variation. If that's true, Eagan may be finished with his HUS medication, and he could be off blood-pressure and seizure medications in six months, his parents said.
Although they don't know how much Eagan's hospital stay will cost, Ross expects the boy's 26-day stay, which included about two weeks in the pediatric intensive care unit, could lead to a significant bill, so the family thanked everyone for coming and for their love, support and prayers.