It happened on a sunny day in late October, while the Fields family was busy preparing their Ft. Myers home for a Halloween charity event. 13-year-old Connor asked if he could join a pal biking to visit another friend.
“Yes,” said his mom, busy with the Halloween decorations. “Be careful.”
Connor and his pal grabbed their bicycles and pedaled off. Around the corner, they could hear a big truck rumbling nearby. They rode up onto a nearby grassy area to safety. Connor watched the truck pass. Then he steered back onto the pavement—not realizing that a 16-wheel semi-trailer was right behind the first truck.
The semi-trailer hooked on to Connor’s back wheel and threw the 80-lb boy into the air and flying toward the pavement.
In the local hospital emergency room, doctors determined that Connor’s skull was fractured and there was bleeding inside his head. If the situation worsened, a specialized neurosurgeon would be needed. So they airlifted the boy to Tampa General Hospital’s level 1 pediatric trauma center, where he was put on a ventilator and feeding tube, given anti-seizure medication, and watched closely.
The next few days were a waiting game to see if the boy would need surgery to relieve pressure on his brain.
“Boy, that was an excruciating three days,” says his mother, Dawn.
Fortunately, Connor’s head began to heal. The doctors explained to his parents about the eight phases of a traumatic brain injury.
“The doctors warned us and gave us a lot to read,” she said. It helped them understand why Connor, still in his hospital bed, sometimes shouted confusing things and even curse words.
Then, unexpectedly, the boy’s brain waves showed new problems. A pediatric endocrinologist pinpointed dangerously low salt levels and a condition called cerebral salt wasting. The medical team acted quickly, testing Connor’s blood around the clock and working to safely restore his salt levels.
In about a week, the boy was strong enough to sit up and eat regular food. He began physical therapy and occupational therapy, but rehabilitation was delayed after doctors discovered a broken shin bone. His double vision and headaches were relieved by a procedure to remove some spinal fluid.
Overall, Connor spent 10 days in intensive care and a total of 21 days in the hospital.
“Tampa General was Class A, fantastic.” says his mom, Dawn. “Every person treated us with kindness, courtesy, and respect. They kept us informed and used plain, clear language; any time we needed help they were there. Even when there was a schedule or shift change, the doctors knew exactly what was going on. Everyone was happy and smiling and making the best of a rotten situation.”
Eighteen months after returning home, Connor is back to being a typical young teen. He bikes and skateboards with friends, listens to heavy metal music, and thinks about high school.
“I can do everything now,” he says. “I try to focus on my future.”