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Traumatic brain injury
Noah Vick

For Laura Ruth Padgett and her son, Noah Vick, life changed in an instant. One day while playing out on his condo balcony without his mother’s knowledge, Noah slipped and fell five stories.

“He told me he was going to go take a nap. He had been sick, so I didn’t think anything of it,” Laura Ruth recalled. “Then probably 10 minutes later there was banging on my door and yelling for me to come quick.”

A maintenance worker found Noah unconscious, and he was immediately transported to Children’s of Alabama. Noah suffered a traumatic brain injury along with a broken skull and jaw.

“On his third night in the hospital, he suffered a stroke because of his cranial brain pressure,” Laura Ruth said. “At that point, we really weren’t given a whole lot of hope, but I refused to give up hope. I kept repeating Joshua 1:9 to Noah, telling him to be strong and courageous.”

The next day, Children’s neurosurgeon Curtis Rozzelle performed a craniotomy to remove part of Noah’s skull to allow his brain to swell without causing significant brain damage – the first of what would be 16 total surgeries. Next was a surgery to restore blood flow to Noah’s brain, which required doctors to cut off Noah’s carotid artery and led to Noah losing the use of his right side.

“During that surgery, [University of Alabama at Birmingham neurosurgeon] Mark Harrigan was only able to repair 75 percent of a fistula in Noah’s brain, and he planned to go in for another surgery later to fix the other 25 percent,” Laura Ruth said. “But later when he went back and looked at it, it had self-healed. That was a miracle.”

A complication, however, soon followed. Noah developed hydrocephalus, which required a shunt be put in to regulate fluid. “At the same time they put the shunt in, they fixed his jaw, which was broken in six places, and put in a G-tube,” Laura Ruth said. “The major focus then shifted to physical and occupational therapies. He had to relearn how to do everything because he had to become left-handed after being right-handed.”

After eight weeks—16 days of which were spent in ICU—Noah was discharged home, but the problems didn’t subside for long. His body started rejecting part of his skull and the bone was actually dissolving faster because of an antibiotic he was taking. That required another surgery to put in a special plate. “They actually had to go back in later and remove the plate because he developed a staph infection,” Laura Ruth said. “We had to wait eight months for them to put the plate back in to make sure the infection was gone. But through it all, we never lost faith.”

Another surgery followed—some optic nerve damage had to be fixed—and Noah also had to begin constraint therapy, meaning he had to wear a cast on his left arm to force him to use his right arm again. “It took two full years to get to where we could say he was doing well, but we got through the complications and he’s doing well,” Laura Ruth said. “One thing we’ve learned is that with traumatic brain injuries, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Noah still struggles with strength and stamina, but he’s back in school and he’s excelling. “Children’s has been such a gift to us in helping us get here,” Laura Ruth said. “They didn’t just support Noah during everything we’ve gone through, but they supported Noah’s entire family. Anything we needed, they were there. You don’t normally get that from a hospital, but they truly cared.”
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