10/28/04 — Boy's recovery from brain injury progresses

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Boy's recovery from brain injury progresses

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on October 28, 2004 2:02 PM

CALYPSO -- A boy who was hit by a truck while crossing the street in August is back home today.

Eight-year-old Benjamin Story came home to Calypso on Oct. 20, eight weeks and two days after a helicopter had taken him to Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville.

On Aug. 23, a truck struck him in front of his house on Trade Street. The impact gave him a hemorrhage and blood clot in the left temporal lobe, which is the speech center. The left frontal lobe was also injured, and he had a smaller injury on the right side of the brain, which controls muscle functions.

His left side is a little weaker than it was, but Benjamin is back to normal physically.

His mother, Peggy Park, said the cognitive recovery is going to take much longer.

His short-term memory is not too good, and sometimes he has a hard time finding the right word.

Sometimes, children who suffer traumatic brain injuries have problems with temper, but he has not had any excessive anger, she said. He didn't cry until three days before coming home. He was homesick.

"He's a little more excitable," she said. "He was always loving, but now, he's more loving. He was always a happy child, but he's even more happy now. He gets distracted easily, and he gets off-track easily.

"Most people wouldn't notice anything is different."

Benjamin's mother is a physician's assistant at Mount Olive Family Medicine Center. She said her training has been a double-edged sword.

The first 12 hours were especially hard on her, because she knew exactly how much damage had occurred to his brain. But she was also able to explain the medical procedures to her husband, Alan Story.

"They told us at first they could not operate yet. I knew why," she said. Sometimes, traumatic brain injuries cause swelling that prohibits surgery until the swelling subsides. "I would rather not have known that at the time."

Benjamin underwent surgery that night. His body temperature was lowered, and he went into a coma that lasted 12 days. He was on a ventilator for three weeks.

Doctors took out his feeding tube Wednesday. It had been attached to his chest for the past six weeks.

"They pulled it. It felt like a wasp stinging," said Benjamin. "It felt very weird. ... It hurt. I don't want it any more, and I don't want any more surgery."

His family hopes he can return to North Duplin Elementary School, where he is in the third grade, after Christmas.

The doctors say the six months following this type of injury is the most important time for helping the brain make new connections.

His parents plan to take him next month to a children's hospital in Richmond, Va., to continue his cognitive progress.

The medical insurance paid for everything -- physical. His mother said the company won't cover any cognitive rehabilitation, and the bill at the children's hospital runs $15,000 a month.

Benefit planned

The Calypso community is planning a Nov. 12 barbecue benefit for Benjamin.

Suzanne Britt is helping with the benefit. The neighbors will cook the barbecue at the Calypso Presbyterian Church and deliver it to any businesses and large groups that call 658-2617. Tickets will be $6.

"It's been amazing the folks who have called and said, 'What can I do. How can I help?'"

A Holland Grill and a 27-inch television will be given away on Dec. 18 at Benjamin's house.

"The community has been incredible in their support," said Mrs. Park. "I am thankful to everybody for the cards, gifts, donations, visits and mostly everybody's prayers. I have no doubt that's why he's where he is now."

Cards came to the hospital from all over the United States. Some had 60 signatures of people saying, "We're praying for you."

Some remembered Benjamin from the children's fund-raising campaign to keep a landfill from near the community, said his grandmother, Frances Park.

Benjamin raised thousands of dollars during that campaign, she said. A man from California who had attended the old Calypso School, William Booth, sent a card saying, "One day you'll write me back, because I know one day you'll be able to write again."

Benjamin's occupational therapist told his grandmother, "I hope you know how blessed you are. Many children with his injury would still be in a wheel chair."