Sam's story in the Neepawa Banner.
Thank you to Ken Waddell and Kate Jackson!!
Thank you to Ken Waddell and Kate Jackson!!
“I remember getting hit [by the scope] and then...”
Boy was in hospital fighting for his life
By Ken Waddell The Neepawa Banner
Talking to 13 year-old Sam Ginter, it’s hard to believe that less than a year ago the Neepawa area boy was in hospital fighting for his life after a traumatic brain injury. The accident that came close to taking Sam’s life took place on July 29, 2008. On that day, Sam was out target shooting with his older brother Josh at their grandparents’ farm just outside of Kelwood. He brought the gun up to aim the scope at a bird and misjudged, hitting himself in the head with the scope. When the scope hit his head, he dropped the gun and it fired, sending a .22 caliber shot into the right side of his head. Sam said, “I remember getting hit [by the scope] and then...” he trails off where his memory ends. After the accident, he says, “I remember a lot of wires and not much else.”While Sam may not remember anything from right after the accident, he picked up his gun and went back to the house. Such a reaction isn’t uncommon after a traumatic brain injury.Sam was then rushed to Neepawa hospital and then on to Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. He stayed at HSC for 12 days.
Four hour surgery
After an hour and a half surgery turned into a four hour surgery to clean and stitch the wound, Sam’s parents, Jodi and Dennis, were given the initial prognosis. Initially, Sam had lost half of the vision in his left eye (peripheral vision) and was paralyzed on the left side of body. They expected that he would have limited mobility and walk with a limp.As Sam healed in the hospital, his prognosis improved. The paralysis went away and the peripheral vision on his left side came back.
While Sam’s long-term prognosis had improved, the effects of his brain injury meant that Sam had to re-learn skills he used to take for granted. He had to re-learn basics such as how to walk and feed himself.Things could have been much worse. Dennis explained that had the bullet followed its path of entry, it would have gone through his brain and exited the back of his head. The bullet did not follow this path, instead, it turned and stopped. Once inside his head, the bullet broke into three fragments.Dennis said, “Had the bullet crossed his brain or the occipital lobe (located in the rear-most part of the brain), it would have been very different.” Had either of these two happened, Sam would likely have died or been paralyzed. The bullet’s path was a bit of a surprise. Jodi said, “They [the doctors] were surprised it was not a through and through.” The bullet’s path meant that damage was limited to the right side of the brain, which affects the left side of the body. The bullet will remain in Sam’s head, as Dennis explains, “It does more damage to take it out.” He added that the practice of removing bullets from patient’s heads stopped 30 years ago.
Recovery when they left the hospital, Sam’s physiotherapy ended. Jodi said, “They said he was fine and sent us home... we did physio at home.” To help rebuild his strength, Jodi said he would wear his cadet boots and walk down their driveway and down the road to the stop sign. Now he can bike to town and back.Almost 10 months after the accident, Sam says, “I feel pretty good about how I’ve come along,” but the road to recovery isn’t yet over. When he gets tired, the left side of his body gets weak and Sam describes it as being “droopy”. Other than when he’s tired, Dennis says that Sam is “physically 100 per cent” although he does sometimes suffer from headaches and vertigo.
Sam was able to go back to school this year, starting with half days in mid-September. At this point, he goes for four full days, spending Wednesday at home resting for the later half of the week.Sam and his family are still working on getting the nerves in his brain to realign after the injury. This is a process which should be done in the first 18 months after injury. Dennis says, “It’s a learning process. He’ll be doing tasks and hit a mental road block and not know what to do.” To overcome these, Dennis says they explain the task in a different way and “it’ll click”. Repetition and routine are important for helping Sam’s brain heal. Sam continues to make progress, but after the rapid advancements made shortly after the accident, Dennis says these days, the progress is “small”.Sam will always be at risk for an infection from the foreign material in his head and seizures, but as time passes and neither of these things happen, Jodi says, “The risk will become very low.”The biggest challenge now is for Sam to learn to self monitor his condition, especially his fatigue, and rest when he needs to.
For Jodi, the goal of stepping forward with her family’s story was to bring more awareness to the issue of traumatic brain injury. She says, “That’s the ultimate goal.”Jodi would like to see more knowledge about traumatic brain injury and describes it as “a silent crippler of families”. Despite the fact that brain injuries are not uncommon, a concussion is considered a brain injury, Jodi says, “I’m surprised, with this being a hockey town, that there’s not more awareness.”Many people with traumatic brain injuries appear fine on the outside and some, like actress Natasha Richardson, even feel fine after the accident.Those with brain injuries often have many different after-effects, however, survivors frequently have difficulty with memory loss, impaired reasoning skills and a tendency toward one-track thinking. They may have physical disabilities such as paralysis, loss of vision and/or hearing, varying degrees of speech impairment, headaches or seizures. Some may have cognitive impairments and have difficulty organizing their thoughts into meaningful speech. In addition to physical effects, emotional effects such as changes in emotional control, depression, difficulty remembering ideas and communicating them coherently and logically, and the loss of subtle social skills are common.Not only is there a lack of knowledge about brain injuries, there is also a lack of support. In Westman, there is only one support group and it’s only open to adults (over 18) who have had a traumatic brain injury; there is nothing for parents or children. Jodi said, “We have had to do our own eduction on the internet.” The internet has proven to be a great source of support and information. Jodi said that she can talk to other parents and find out “I’m not crazy”.June is brain injury awareness month in Canada. You can find more information about brain injury from the Brain Injury Association of Canada (http://biac-aclc.ca/en/).