In those first few years of life, a dad's No. 1 job is arguably to help you through that long checklist of first moments you're about to have. The first game of catch, the first shoe-tying lesson ... the first time you take those training wheels off (and inevitably crash your bike into the fence). And if you're lucky, hopefully mom's standing by with a camera to catch it all going down.
Making its way around Reddit this weekend was a sweet snapshot of a dad and his young son, holding hands while taking a walk for the first time. But there's a lot more to the story than just that. Both dad and son are wearing matching eye patches, and taking careful steps down a hospital hallway, as dad clutches the IV cart he's attached to.
That's because these first steps aren't the son's; they're dad's. And he's learning to walk again, thanks to his 2-year-old son.
Last year, dad Jimmy Hilsabeck was by all accounts the picture of health when he suddenly suffered a bleed in his brainstem. That's when doctors told him he's had arteriorvenous malformation (or AVM) all his life. The condition, according to the Mayo Clinic, causes an abnormal connection between the arteries and veins; but because of its location, Hilsabeck's doctors were unable to remove it surgically.
So as an alternative solution, Hilsabeck told HuffPost editors that he opted for a gamma knife procedure to shrink it. And the procedure proved pretty grueling. But following the treatment, Hilsabeck's 2-year-old son, Brunson, was right by his side to help him get better.
"He got in the bed with me and gave me the saddest, sweetest hug while we argued over who loved the other more," Hilsabeck told HuffPost over email.
And his support didn't just end there. Seeing that his dad had to wear an eye patch for months following the procedure, little Brunson donned his own. (Though, yes, it may have been in part to pretend he was a pirate, but still).
The touching photo of the dad and son making their way through the ICU has since been shared and reshared–not to mention, gained hundreds of comments:
"When I walked, he would grab my hand, pull me, and say, 'Come on, daddy,'" continued Hilsabeck. "I forgot about the difficulty of walking and just watched him, this innocent, perfect soul willing me to succeed. There is no way I could let him down."
What's more, the whole ordeal reminded the father of just how important his son is to him.
"Seeing someone with such complete faith in you gives you the strength to get through anything," he continued. "I owe him everything I am. The kind of love you see in your child's face cannot be described in words. It's a force that can drive you to accomplish what you thought you couldn't. It makes everything worth it."