A year ago, 4-year-old Ryan Galvan would insist that he was old enough to sleep alone.
Today, Ryan cries if he is left alone in the dark.
For Ryan, the fear of being alone and a 6-inch, zigzag scar are the only remnants of a hot July afternoon when he picked up a power saw and turned it on himself.
But for his parents, the memory of their son with the blade of the saw embedded in his abdomen through his crimson-soaked shirt remains vividly in their minds.
For what seemed like endless days and nights, Antonio Galvan paced the hospital corridor or held his unconscious son's hand, willing him to live.
At first, doctors told Antonio and Gracie Galvan they were not sure that they could save Ryan, then 3. Although Ryan's stomach did not suffer serious injury, surgeons had to reconnect dozens of pieces of large and small intestine, some of which had wrapped around the blade.
Ryan's parents originally considered psychological therapy for the child. But miraculously, except for his refusal to sleep alone and the scar which, out of a child's fancy, he nicknamed "coco," Ryan suffers no noticeable effects from the accident, they said.
Ryan's cut healed within three to four months, his parents said, and the last time he went to the doctor was for a cursory checkup, about four or five months ago.
"We know he's going to be OK, but the ordeal is still with us," Antonio Galvan, 35, said one recent afternoon, sitting in the living room of his Fullerton home with his son on his lap. "It's something we can't keep off our minds."
One day last week, Gracie Galvan said, she panicked when she realized that it was the anniversary of the day of her son's brush with death.
"July 17 . . . I have it on my mind like a birthday," said Gracie Galvan, 32, of the date of the accident. "We always \o7 live\f7 that day."
Antonio Galvan said it was a day when he was working to renovate his house, and tools were scattered in the back yard. Ryan, the only boy and youngest of five children, was fascinated by the tools, his father said.
After Ryan came home from the hospital and was well enough to walk, he asked his parents to take him into the back yard where he recounted his near-fatal adventure: He was attracted by the gleaming saw--its protective guard removed--which had been left on the diving board at the edge of the family's swimming pool, Ryan told his parents.
He picked the saw up, "pushed the button and something happened," he told them.
Doctors credited the paramedics with saving the boy's life. Firefighters chose not to remove the saw from Ryan's stomach and instead cut the power cord. Their actions helped prevent further organ damage and loss of blood, doctors said.
Ryan doesn't talk about the accident much now, except when the curious ask to see his battle scar. Then he proudly displays it.
"Look, it's a pretty coco, no?" Ryan asked, slipping from his father's lap to show off the scar.
Yet, he is also aware of his parents' perpetual fear that "something bad" will happen to him.
"He knows (the accident) still hurts us," Antonio Galvan said. "He always tells me it doesn't hurt any more and: 'See? It's only a coco.' " Antonio Galvan works the night shift as a stockman for a printing company, and his wife works during the day at a hosiery warehouse, so one of them can be with him all the time.
The Galvans admit that they have to consciously force themselves not to be overprotective, sometimes to the point of paranoia.
Recently, Ryan mischievously hid from them, his mother said.
"We turned around and he wasn't there, and I thought: 'Oh no, not again!' " Gracie Galvan said. "Then, he came out from behind a big plant laughing, and I knew everything is OK."