Two years ago, Drew Ford suddenly lost everything – his ability to walk, to talk, to recall something as simple as tying his shoes. A normal school year seemed impossible, much less the eighth grade year he’s having now: Earning straight A’s, helping lead Eastway Middle’s conference-winning basketball team, snagging enough votes to be named homecoming king.
In March 2012, Drew complained of a headache in class. It worsened, and he asked to go to a quiet room. The headache intensified, so he went to see the nurse, and the pain brought him to tears. Then he began screaming and collapsed.
Drew says he doesn’t remember any of that. He was later rushed to the hospital, where doctors said he had an intracerebral hemorrhage, similar to a ruptured aneurysm. They drilled a hole in his head to drain the blood.
Intracerebral hemorrhages are rare, and in Drew’s case, a fluke. They occur in 1 in 100,000 children, usually in premature babies, said Joe Bernard, Drew’s neurosurgeon at Carolina Neurosurgery and Spine Associates. Drew is among the approximately 30 percent of patients with bleeding brains who survive and do so without severe impairment, Bernard said.
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Drew suffered a couple of small strokes after surgery and had trouble using the left side of his body. He went home 46 days later and had to relearn everything from brushing his teeth to remembering what he ate for breakfast.
He also temporarily lost his short-term memory. He’d write every detail of his day in a journal to reference whom he talked to and activities he did. The memory slowly came back and is mostly restored.
He’d also set goals for himself, like being able to jump high enough to touch the living room ceiling, and daily walked laps around a track with his mom, Sheryl Ford. He hit the books soon after returning home, hoping not to get behind.
His biggest motivator was basketball. Drew is an avid fan and player of the sport, and a letter of encouragement from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski inspired him.
Drew returned to the court in seventh grade and also ran track, finishing in the top three at one school meet.
For the first time, Drew struggled to earn A’s in class, and sometimes didn’t. He had to practice harder to perfect his basketball shot as a left-handed shooter. But with help from his family, doctors, church, classmates and teachers, Drew says he’s happy he bounced back.
He gives a big smile. “I’m just getting back to being the old me.”