12/15/05 — Greenwood Middle School teen is in fair condition

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Greenwood Middle School teen is in fair condition

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 15, 2005 1:54 PM

Students at Greenwood Middle School, encouraged by news that a classmate's condition at Pitt Memorial Hospital has been upgraded to fair, continue to keep their spirits up and lend support every way they can.

The Nov. 18 accident during which two 13-year-old, eighth-graders were struck by a sports utility vehicle at a crosswalk near the school has been like a bad dream, students say.

Carson Thomas, in a coma since the accident, has wavered between critical and serious condition. On Wednesday, hospital officials said he is now listed in fair condition. According to the American Hospital Association, fair condition means that vital signs are stable and within normal limits; the patient is conscious, but may be uncomfortable; and indicators are favorable.

Mackenzie Wessels, released from Pitt earlier this month, is recovering at home on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

Wednesday was "Hat Day for Carson and Mack" at Greenwood. Students and staff paid $1 for the privilege of wearing a hat to school, with money raised for an ongoing fund to support the families' medical expenses.

The project, derived from the first letter of the boys' names, is "Money for Mack, Coins for Carson," principal Larry Dean said.

Friday night, a school dance will also raise more funds for the cause, Dean said. One dollar from each ticket will go toward the fund, with a canned food drive benefiting others in need during this holiday season.

While the school has tried to conduct business as usual, it has been important to address what is on everyone's minds, Dean said. Students have approached him with a variety of ways to lend support, from making stickers to wear as a show of support, to creating banners and cards. Some even made a recording of encouraging voice messages to send Carson, he said.

"I think the student support, the caring has been outstanding," he said. In turn, Dean said he tries to provide regular updates for the students and staff.

The Thomas family is staying in the Greenville area, he said, and keeps in touch via e-mail or telephone. Dean said that overall, the news has been encouraging, with some of Carson's medications being reduced.

Dean said he and Celia James, principal at Meadow Lane Elementary School, have made several trips to Greenville to visit the family. Carson has a younger brother who is a student at Meadow Lane, Dean said.

"It's just amazing how they're holding up so well," he said. "(His mom) continues to ask for everyone's thoughts and prayers."

Mack, meanwhile, is being tutored at home to keep up his studies. Teacher Jane Mull works with him on language arts and social studies, while Mural Lanier, Mack's homeroom teacher, provides instruction in math and science.

"He's responding very well, doing his assignments and is in good spirits," Dean said.

"The family is very appreciative, very grateful" for the outpouring of support, Ms. Mull added. "Dad said a couple of times they're amazed. They're hearing from people they didn't even know remembered them."

Cards and letters, as well as gifts, have poured in for the family, she said. And nearly every day that she goes, she takes messages from Mack's classmates. On Wednesday, she said she also planned to take the instrument Mack plays, the bass tuba.

The boys are missed and classmates said they anxiously await their return. The best friends had a positive way of looking at life, students said.

"They could always, like, cheer you up and turn it into something funny," said Cody Walker, who calls both boys friends.

Imaginative is another word used by Donald Riggs.

"Carson would pick up a piece of wood (in shop class) and make it into something like it was from Star Wars," he said.

The students were among several eighth-graders who shared this week what it has been like dealing with a tragedy in their midst.

"When I came to school that morning and saw those police cars," Donald said he thought it was an accident, but had no idea how grave the situation was and that the rescue work involved people he knew. "Usually, people like us don't expect something like this to happen."

"You hear it all the time on the news but you never think it will happen to you," Cody said.

"It seemed like a bad dream," said Samantha Parrish, who shared homeroom with Mack and said they had become pretty good friends.

"It kind of feels weird. One day, you're talking to them, messing around, and the next day they're in the hospital," said Nykita Holmes, who has known Mack since sixth grade. Now, policemen stationed near the crosswalk each morning serve as a reminder of what happened there.

Talking about that day and their classmates helps, the students said. Finding ways to hold onto hope is also important.

"Carson isn't critical any more," Donald said. "Every day there's a sign that he's getting better. I try to think of how he's doing now."

Cody said he had recently visited Mack.

"It just showed me how he was doing, that he was getting better and everything," he said. "He seemed to like it."

Students said they are grateful that the school has allowed them to express their concerns and take action to show they care.
"I think the school's doing a great job in how it's supporting Mack and Carson," Nykita said.

"It's amazing how all these people come together in the confines of a school and do all these things, all they can to help the families cope with this situation," Donald said.

For now, most anticipate the day they will be reunited with their missing classmates.

"Mack was like a brother to us all, like a crazy brother," Nykita said.

"I'm looking forward to when Mack gets better and can walk and get back to school. It'll seem more normal," Cody said.

"Maybe some order will come back to the classroom," added Donald.