'Little Hulk' lucky to be alive after rare head injury

Wolfson Children's surgeons save baby who hit head learning to stand

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – No parent wants to be told their child needs lifesaving brain surgery. But those were the words Liam Payne's parents heard after the Brunswick infant took a terrible tumble while learning to stand in August. 

At 8 months old, he was pulling himself up on a coffee table, as many children do.

"He fell and hit the metal leg of the coffee table and instantly started crying and was inconsolable,” Jennifer Payne, Liam's mom, recalled.

Although there wasn't any bruising to Liam's head, his parents knew something wasn't right and took him to Southeast Georgia Health System. A CT scan showed that Liam had fractured his skull, causing a blood clot near his brain.

"I call it an emotional hurricane, because you can't imagine something happening like that when he's 8 months old,” Jennifer Payne said. “To watch him fade away, it was so scary."


Liam was flown to Wolfson Children's Hospital in Jacksonville for emergency surgery. 

That's where he earned the nickname "Little Hulk” from the nurses.

"Because they've never seen anybody fight the (anesthesia) medication like that before,” Jennifer Payne said.

After surgery, Liam even dressed up as the superhero in mini form, sporting a scar left over from surgery.

With the help of surgeons at Wolfson, the “Little Hulk” is back home and healthy -- a chatty, smiling, active 1-year-old.

Four months after the surgery, the Payne family returned to Jacksonville for a follow-up with pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Philipp Aldana.

Aldana said injuries in the household are the leading causes of trauma in young children, which is why parents need to keep a close eye on their youngsters. He said Liam's injury, however, was rare. 

"We got rid of the coffee table and (put down) yoga mats everywhere,” Liam's dad, Robbie Payne, said.

Pediatric specialists will continue to monitor Liam to make sure he hasn't suffered permanent neurological damage. His parents said they are blessed to have the opportunity to celebrate Liam's second Christmas after coming so close to losing him.

Liam's family has set up a GoFundMe account to help with hospital expenses. To donate, go to https://www.gofundme.com/the-hulk.