Cincinnati Children's Blog

10-Year-Old With Traumatic Brain Injury Re-Learns How to Ride Bike

10-Year-Old With Traumatic Brain Injury Re-Learns How to Ride Bike

That’s my 10-year-old son, Parker, in the photo above. He’s riding a bike. That might sound like a fairly typical activity for a kid his age. But for him, it’s miraculous. I can’t watch it without getting choked up. It’s a visual marker of how far he’s come.

You see, 14 months ago he suffered a traumatic brain injury, and his surgeon didn’t expect him to survive. Getting him to re-learn how to ride a bike was one of the farthest things from our minds. At that point, we just wanted to be able to talk to our son again.

Parker’s Accident

April 15, 2017, was the longest day of my life.  Parker was riding in a Polaris Ranger with his cousin when it tipped over, trapping him underneath. Parker was flown to the hospital and taken into surgery, where he had a section of his skull removed. This was performed to give his very swollen brain more space. He spent 2 ½ weeks in the PICU at St. Vincent’s before he was transferred to Cincinnati Children’s inpatient rehabilitation program. Parker has a severe traumatic brain injury.

Parker’s Recovery

He spent two and a half months in rehabilitation. When he first got there, he couldn’t communicate, sit up unassisted or walk. He had a feeding tube put in during his stay.

I am amazed at how well the brain heals itself. All of a sudden, about two months after the accident, he was able to do a simple toddler type of puzzle. Then he started walking.  Surgeons performed a cranioplasty, which repaired the part of the skull that was cut out right after the accident. Once this happened, he was able to speak again and recovery then became rapid. I knew he had turned a corner when he correctly set up a chessboard to play.  

Fourteen months later, we feel so fortunate for the progress Parker has made. He has all of his memory, and school is going great. Parker still has some deficits, including processing speed, spacial awareness, and right-sided weakness.

Parker and His Bike

He had just learned how to ride a bike the summer before the accident. Parker had been looking forward to an upcoming biking trip with his cousins when he got into that accident. We hoped that riding a bike would be another accomplished milestone on his road to recovery.  We had tried the traditional training-wheeled bike in physical therapy with little success.  This brought us to the BeWell bike camp.

What BeWell Bike Camp Is Like

Parker was a little hesitant on the first day of camp. He mentioned to me that he was afraid of falling and getting hurt. However, he quickly got comfortable because the camp caters to kids like Parker. Kids who are recovering from an injury, those who have physical limitations, and kids who are at-risk for a sedentary lifestyle are all welcome.

Each day for 75 minutes, Parker practiced riding. He had a team of volunteers by his side, and stability equipment underneath. As he got more comfortable, a bike technician incrementally reduced the stability of the bike. By the end of the week, he was riding on his own!

Parker Rides Again!

I was overwhelmed with emotion when I saw Parker ride his bike, on his own, on the last day of camp. Excitement. Disbelief. Awe. I thought about how he was in a wheelchair just a year ago. I can’t believe how far he’s come since then. Each milestone that puts him back in line with his peers is a victory in our book. His road to recovery has been long but with continued hard work, and a little bit of stubbornness, he is getting better each day. It’s a miracle.  

We must celebrate this win with a biking trip with his cousins. Watch for us on the trail!

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