On March 2, 2014, Curtis Lee Foster was in a dirt-bike crash.
The Dilworth resident wasn’t wearing a helmet; he sustained a traumatic brain injury and fractured his right upper arm.
“I was rushing that night,” Foster, 19, said of the night he struck a car while driving his dirt bike. “I went through the driver-side window, then I about knocked out the (man) that was driving. … When I hit the ground I was bleeding out my eyes, ears, nose and mouth.”
Emergency personnel rushed the unconscious Foster to the Levine Children’s Hospital. Tests showed severe brain trauma, said Foster’s aunt Tracy Kirchner, 46.
Doctors told Kirchner they weren’t sure if her nephew was going to wake up.
Foster was in intensive care for two weeks, Kirchner said; during that time, medical professionals said her nephew was going to need at least two years of therapy.
“He would not be able to run, may not be able to walk, not totally brain dead but definitely not able to speak properly, possibly being a paraplegic,” Kirchner said she was told.
“They didn’t expect full recovery at all.”
Foster went from intensive care to the Levine Children’s Hospital Rehabilitation Pavilion, where patients receive an average of 16 hours per week of physical therapy, occupational therapy and/or speech therapy.
“The first week in therapy, he did not respond at all,” Kirchner said; however, she said, she could tell “the lights were on.”
“I sat down and had a heart-to-heart,” Kirchner said. She told Foster: “‘I know you are confused, but you have two choices. You can either participate in therapy, or lie in bed and be a vegetable the rest of your life. The choice is yours.’”
From that day forward, Foster worked hard.
By the time he left the hospital May 7, 2014, Foster was eating soft foods, walking with help and talking – albeit with difficulty pronouncing some words.
Foster then went to outpatient rehab at Carolinas Institute of Rehabilitation, from June through September. He spent three hours a day, four days a week working with speech-language pathologists and occupational and physical therapists.
“The staff are very knowledgeable (and) attentive, but most of all they show they care,” Kirchner said. “You are not just another statistic. They celebrate the smallest achievement, which is amazing to a child. It only encourages them to do even more. They listen to your concerns, talk to you in terms that you can understand, and give a hug at the end of the day. The support team and doctors are amazing.”
On May 31, Foster and Kirchner will volunteer at the fourth annual Levine JCC Kids Triathlon, which benefits the rehabilitation programs at Levine Children’s Hospital and the Adaptive Sports and Adventures Program.
Last year, the triathlon competitors, age 5 through 14 years, raised more than $55,000.
Foster is no longer in rehab, but he continues to push himself, with Kirchner’s assistance and encouragement. He still has some memory and cognitive problems, but he can run, walk, jump, skip, hop and ride a bike, Kirchner said. “He just learned how to jump on a trampoline,” she said.
“I can do push-ups, situps, pull-ups, one diamond push-up,” Foster said. “I can run about half a mile before I quit out.”
Now an advocate for helmets, Foster will stop people he sees riding without helmets and tell them about his accident.
Marissa Brooks is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marissa? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
▪ For information on the Levine JCC Kids Triathlon, visit www.ljcckidstri.org
The event will be May 31 at Levine Jewish Community Center, Shalom Park, 5007 Providence Road.
Contact: Julie Rizzo, 704-944-6730 or email@example.com.
▪ Levine Children’s Hospital Pediatric Inpatient Rehabilitation Services, www.carolinashealthcare.org/pediatric-inpatient-rehabilitation-services-lch.
▪ Contact: Lori M. Badgley, Clinical Rehabilitation Liaison, Levine Children’s Hospital, 704-993-1581.