11-year-old Jackson Manning never seems at a loss for conversation. But earlier this year, an unexpected type-1 diabetes diagnosis resulted in a situation where he wasn't able to speak at all.
"I couldn't speak, drink anything...I was so thirsty...eat anything," Jackson recalled.
It all began in late February when Jackson's parents, Mike and Tricia Manning, said he came down with what seemed like an ordinary stomach flu.
"But then at 6 .m. he woke up and I could tell something was wrong," Tricia Manning said. "His breathing was very rapid and I tried to wake him."
His parents took Jackson to the emergency room where they were told their son had type-1 diabetes. His body was shutting down and one of his lungs had collapsed.
Jackson was rushed to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at UC Davis Children's Hospital. There he was put on a breathing tube that prevented him from speaking and medications that caused amnesia.
"I think I woke up like 12 to 14 days into it," Jackson said, "I realized I couldn't speak and I was panicking."
But then Jackson had an idea: A few months earlier, he decided to learn sign language.
"It just seemed like a cool language," he explained, so he decided to communicate with his family that way instead.
Communicating, however, wasn't Jackson's biggest challenge. He also had to completely relearn how to walk.
"It was literally sitting up first, learning how to hold his body up," his mother recalled. "It was sitting on the edge of his bed...and then it was standing for a few seconds."
Overtime, he gained some strength, and on the day his physical therapists encouraged him to try walking 10 steps – he surprised even himself by doing so much more.
"I walked like 64 steps," Jackson said.
After 39 days, Jackson was finally able to return home – a little weaker, but no less optimistic.
"The sole survivor in 'Survivor,' they stay on the island for 39 days," Jackson quipped. "So that would make me a sole survivor."
A survivor, yes, but he still has a road ahead. His lungs, while getting stronger, are still at 60 percent. He also has daily physical therapy and a new diet to adjust to.
His parents said they're continually in awe of Jackson's positivity and strength, and grateful to the doctors and nurses at UC Davis Children's Hospital who helped them through it.
"They weren't just taking care of Jackson, that was one of the key things," his parents said. "They were taking care of us."
"I just want to say thank you so much," Jackson added. "[They] saved my life and made the experience one to certainly remember."
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