05/26/10 — Aycock senior dealing with accident

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Aycock senior dealing with accident

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 26, 2010 1:46 PM

David Burke

Just weeks shy of graduation, Charles B. Aycock High School senior David Burke was injured in a "freak accident" last week and is now at Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville awaiting his prognosis.

Burke, who just turned 18 on March 12, should be enjoying the senior picnic and other activities with his classmates. He should be readying for the Hawaii trip he had planned with friends before heading off to classes at Wayne Community College in the fall.

Instead, his parents are staying at the Ronald McDonald House so they can be close by as he undergoes physical and occupational therapy, and the decision is made as to which rehabilitation facility they will transfer him.

The accident that put him there happened during a Young Life event May 18, said his pastor, the Rev. Gary Bailey of Stoney Creek Free Will Baptist Church.

"They were playing 'ultimate kickball' but to get home, you had to slide on the Slip 'n Slide," Bailey said. "David is very athletic, very vivacious and energetic. He was trying to get home on his turn. He was going to jump over the person that hit the ball.

"When he jumped, he lost his balance and came down on his head. He's probably done that a thousand times and not had any problems. It was just a freak accident."

For the agile soccer player -- and youngest of four brothers who were also athletes -- it was not initially alarming when the call came in that he'd been taken to the emergency room at Wayne Memorial Hospital.

"I have four boys -- they have gone to the ER many, many times," said his father, Tom Burke. "I didn't really worry about it at the time."

When he arrived, though, he realized the injury was more serious.

"The spinal cord was damaged but not severed," he said. "The C-6, which is the sixth vertebra down, was shattered."

David was transferred to Pitt Memorial, where doctors later performed surgery to remove the vertebra that was crushed. They rebuilt it with a bone they transplanted and titanium.

He has some use of his arms and is wearing a neck brace, his father said. Occupational and physical therapists come in daily to work with him.

"He's young and at least to some extent resilient," Burke said. "He's made really good strides. They didn't keep him in ICU near as long as we would have thought."

The next step will be rehabilitation, he said, "as soon as they can get him there."

Doctors have not given the family a definitive prediction, said Burke, who is clinging to the hope that "there is a difference between science and faith."

The family is trusting God for a miracle.

"The doctors cannot say for sure what the prognosis will be finally, until some time has passed," said Bailey. "They have not said he will not walk again and they have not said he would."

"His mom (Donna) said, 'We taught him how to walk once, we will teach him how to walk again,'" Burke said. "It's kind of like starting all over again, like when he was a tiny kid."

Meanwhile, the family has been "absolutely overwhelmed" with the outpouring of support they have received from the community, their pastor said.

A T-shirt sale was originated through Screen It, with proceeds going to the Burke family, he said. Minimum orders for $10 each are being taken through May 28, by calling 584-1385.

Charles B. Aycock has also embraced its theme, "We Are Family," said its principal, Dr. Earl Moore. Several clubs and organizations have done a variety of things, including collecting money for an Apple Ipad, making handmade cards, baskets of homemade gifts and goodies, a "Class of 2010" T-shirt autographed by each member of the senior class and a video montage of get-well wishes from his classmates.

"It is such a tragedy when something of this nature happens to one of my students," Moore said. "However, I have a wonderful student body and staff members who know the true meaning of family and its true essence is captured in times of need.

"The counselors and I are working closely together to make sure that David, though absent from school, has many fond memories of his senior year, especially the biggest event of all, graduation."

Many have shown up for the family, in the form of daily visits to the hospital.

"A lot of people have come -- there have been people that have been here every single day, the same people," Burke said. "Stoney Creek, you just could not believe what the people there have done. It's just incredible. You end up having way more friends than you knew you had, even friends that you never knew."

Doctors have limited the number of visitors because David tires so easily, his dad said.

That's fine for now, he added, because there will be plenty of time for that in the future.

"Even though we really appreciate all the support we have had, when he's really going to need the support is when he gets back (from rehab)," Burke said. "In the meantime, we're going to figure out a way to change some things downstairs (at home), which may be hard to do.

"He's going to really need his friends when all this comes to a point and he realizes where he is."

Bailey said despite the challenges that have come with such an injury, he has been impressed with David's demeanor.

"He has a positive attitude most of the time," he said. "He has been upbeat, feeling as positive as he can.

"He's going to be the kind of person that can cope with this. He's made out of things that can get him through it."