By Chere Walsh
This is the amazing story of Keaton Walsh – a teenage boy (17) from Willow Springs, Illinois, whose life was turned upside down on June 20, 2018. Keaton is a talented young hockey player who dreams of competing at the college level. He’s a devoted fan of our Blackhawks who also likes professional soccer. He’s a thoughtful, polite person who treasures his friends and makes his parents (Larry & Chere) proud on a daily basis. What makes Keaton truly unique is his quiet determination to regain control of his faculties and return to the life he knew. In order to do this, Keaton is going to need your support.
No one can predict when a catastrophic accident will change the course of their life. For Keaton, it was a beautiful day on Lake Michigan with a friend and two adult buddies…riding wave runners in Whiting, IN. There was no expectation of a collision between the two 700 lb. machines and no clear reason why it happened. But Keaton was left unconscious and shaking uncontrollably as he was carried to the beach. He was suffering from a severe traumatic brain injury. He was rushed to St. Catherine Hospital.
Doctors initiated life-saving protocols. Keaton was placed in a chemically-induced coma. It was quickly determined that his brain injury would require acute treatment at the University of Chicago. He was airlifted to the care of neurological specialists at the ICU. Two surgical teams were standing by should the pressure in his brain require relief. For the next 23 days, Keaton endured life-saving sedation and pain killers, a feeding/gastric tube, ventilation through his trachea and brain pressure monitoring as his family and friends helplessly tried to cope.
Imagine the doctor saying, “Your son is improving”, when we know…he’s bleeding in diffuse points of the brain, breathing by artificial means, fed through a tube and connected to brain electrodes and IVs. Even the best doctors cannot predict the outcome of such a traumatic brain event – until the patient begins to improve. And Keaton did just that after he was gradually weaned off sedation. Though his left side was barely responsive (including left eye), his body began to re-ignite. Two long weeks of coma finally subsided and we were encouraged when Keaton “woke up.”
From the University of Chicago, Keaton’s progress propelled him to another world-class care facility – the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab. The latest in technology for physical therapy welcomed Keaton to the next stage of his return to meaningful life. Traumatic brain injuries require months of medical treatment, followed by months (or years) of physical re-training. The body must be taught to function again…often a painstaking and frustrating process. Who among us can imagine going from complete physical health to total immobility?
“Amazing” and “remarkable” are over-used adjectives. We are accustomed to hearing such hyperbole…unless it comes from your son’s doctor. When a patient achieves pre-established weekly and monthly goals in a matter of days, would you say he’s “ahead of schedule?” Keaton is working hard. He enjoys school and the life he’s made, and no one can place limits on what he can achieve. He’s walking now, working on his balance and trying to regain use of his left eye. The good staff at the lab has him on a rigorous exercise schedule and he always goes beyond. It will be some time before his cognitive skills are 100% but it takes time to restore short term memory. The family and friends of Keaton Walsh will do their best to help cover the medical costs and rehab for this outstanding young man. But insurance will only pay for so much. The expenses are staggering. We hope his story of quiet determination will encourage you to help. Thank you for your empathy and consideration.
Please click HERE to visit Keaton’s GoFundMe Page.