NORTH FORSYTH — After spending the night at a friend’s house, Ben Fisher and a group of buddies decided to take advantage of the Feb. 12 snow day to go sledding at Liberty Middle School.
Fisher, 17, doesn’t remember losing control and sliding head-first into a fire hydrant, or his friends calling for help. And he has no recollection of arriving at Northside Hospital-Forsyth. But nearly two months after suffering a traumatic brain injury, the teenager is up and walking again.
“It was Earth shattering and life changing. We didn’t know what to expect,” said his father, Kevin. “I thought we’d be fortunate if he’d be able to get out of the hospital by summertime and we’re very, very fortunate. He’s definitely overachieved, that’s for sure.”
As a result of the accident, doctors determined the North Forsyth High School student had fractured his skull on the left side behind his ear. He had both external and internal swelling, as well as some bleeding.
As the swelling subsided, the more functions he regained. Even small actions such as opening his eyes and making direct eye contact were major milestones for the family. And the progress was quick, Kevin Fisher said.
After nine days at Northside, his son graduated to the Shepherd Center for rehabilitation. Exactly 28 days after the accident, he was cleared to return home, said Fisher, who spent the first two weeks at night on a couch or recliner next to him. It was the third night at the Shepherd Center, Fisher said, when “[Ben] told me to go home.”
“That’s when I felt really relieved ... and had a lot more confidence that there would be a lot more forward progress,” he said. “He’s really improved quite incredibly. He doesn’t need assistance doing anything at all.
“Last week, he did a little bit of working out at the gym, so he’s trying to get his life back to where it was. It’s just going to take a lot of work.”
Fisher went on to say that his daughter, Katherine, was really scared for her brother at first. However, she was able to relax some “once he got to the Shepherd Center and his personality started coming back and he wasn’t stuck in a wheelchair all the time and he was able to joke around a lot more.”
Fisher attributed his son’s rapid recovery in large part to the friends’ quick response after the crash, and to the dedicated medical staff at both facilities. He also credits the teen’s determination and previous physical strength, which he’s working to build back.
Noting that Ben’s short-term memory remains a bit shaky and he hasn’t yet been challenged with math or analytical thinking problems like in school, he said the family doesn’t “know too much about those hurdles he’ll experience.”
There’s no timeline yet, though Fisher said he wouldn’t be surprised if his son returns to school in the coming weeks. He will have some catching up to do, but is likely up for the challenge.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day and we’ve got a long way to go. But he’s home and that’s a good thing,” he said. “The end goal is to graduate next year when he gets back to North Forsyth [High School] with his class.
“Given where we started from, when you look at the path he’s taken, you can’t help but to be optimistic.”