Most fifth graders will tell you how much fun it is to be playing outside. It’s the rare 10-year-old boy, however, who extols the virtues of wearing a helmet.
Noah Howard, of Belton, Texas, was doing what he’d done many times before. He picked up his Rip Stick skateboard and headed out to his neighborhood where he and his friends loved to carve the pavement. But the late afternoon fun soon took a fast turn. Noah fell off his board and hit his head. He wasn’t wearing a helmet.
Victor Howard quickly took his son to a nearby urgent care facility, where he expected the bump on Noah’s head to be evaluated. To his surprise, he was advised to take Noah to the Scott & White Emergency Department, a Level I trauma center capable of handling the most serious injuries. By the time they arrived, Noah had deteriorated. He was vomiting and couldn’t stay awake. Emergency physicians at Scott & White, aided by the pediatric neurology team, put the child in a brace. A CT scan revealed a fractured skull and an epidural bleed in his brain. A craniotomy by experienced pediatric neurosurgeons needed to be performed quickly to save the young boy’s life.
Within a few hours, Noah was in the operating room and the pressure on his brain eventually relieved. Four days in the pediatric intensive care unit, and around-the-clock monitoring by physicians, nurses and medical residents gave Noah’s parents much peace of mind, especially his mother Carrie Jo, who works at Scott & White. “In those moments you realize how fast things can change,” says Mrs. Howard. “I was so impressed with Noah’s team. Everything we needed was right there for us, and we could even stay overnight with him.” While the surgery was a success, the inner part of Noah’s ear, the cochlea, was irreparably damaged during the fall, leaving him deaf in his left ear.
Luckily, Noah didn’t have any cognitive or motor dysfunction. Mr. Howard says, “We feel lucky to share his story, and are blessed it wasn’t worse.” He is grateful too for the care their son received at Scott & White, including the way staff kept him and his wife informed from the moment they arrived to the day they left. “The care Noah received at Scott & White is second to none,” he says. “They made sure he was taken care of.”
Noah now is an advocate for wearing a helmet, making sure his friends wear one anytime they get on something with wheels. He tells his friends that it was an accident, and accidents can happen at anytime to anybody. “Noah’s story is one of consequences,” says his mother. “He loves sports, but he can’t play football or any contact sports from now on. The choice not to wear a helmet took away some other choices. But the way we communicate now as a family has been such a gift, and that has been because of his hearing loss. We sit down, and look at each other to talk; we take the time,” she says. Noah, now 12, and his younger sister Emma Kate, have grown closer as well.
One year later to the day of his accident, Noah went whitewater rafting with his class on a field trip. He was in true form.
Written by Patricia Brennan