“He could jump out of bed in three days or it could be five years,” said Tom Smithberger of his 16-year-old son, Tommy, who suffered a spinal break Feb. 7 after an accident at a family member’s home.
“All cases like this are different,” said the father.
The younger Smithberger, a sophomore football player at Black River High School, was riding an inflatable tube that was being towed by a four-wheeler when he was ejected and collided with a tree.
That led to an emergency trip by helicopter to Cleveland’s MetroHealth Medical Center and a three-hour surgery in which rods were placed to stabilize the teen’s spine.
Tommy has regained consciousness and is able to communicate but has no feeling from the waist down, his father said.
A GoFundMe campaign in his name can be found at https://goo.gl/ST7jNY. As of Monday, it had raised $4,545 toward a $50,000 goal.
“We’ve been told his spinal cord looks OK, all things considered,” said Tom. “We were also told the fact he’s bedridden with no movement is pretty normal at this point because of all the swelling. They can’t tell us if he’ll walk again, but there has been some positive feedback.”
After Tommy is discharged from Metro’s intensive care unit, he’ll either be transferred to another area of the hospital or to a rehabilitation center for treatment that is expected to take three to five weeks.
It’s unclear whether Tommy suffered other internal injuries. Doctors won’t be able to see that until his spine stabilizes, his father said.
Following initial inpatient rehabilitation, the family experts Tommy will either be sent home or to a facility closer to his home in Spencer.
Tom said he’ll continue to be cautiously optimistic as his son sets out on a long road to recovery.
“My wife works in Medina and I’m a heavy equipment operator in Euclid,” he said. “We both got the phone call while we were at work. Of course, you’re thinking the absolute worst as you’re driving. Everyone was so panicky and we couldn’t get feedback from anywhere.”
“I got to see Tommy before they put him in the helicopter,” Tom said. “But until we talked to the surgeon a few hours later, it was just terrifying. We just thank God it wasn’t his head, so I guess our prayers were answered there. Tommy is fully aware of what’s going on. He remembers my oldest daughter holding his head. He remembers the helicopter ride. He remembers it all.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.