Rowan teen on road to recovery after accident on four-wheeler

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Shavonne Potts
Salisbury Post
Josh Lippard doesn’t remember much about the 10-foot tree limb that fell on him two months ago and left his left arm paralyzed.
The active 14-year-old was outside riding his four-wheeler through the family’s wooded yard off Cauble Road on a windy February day when he was suddenly struck.
“I blacked out,” he said.
What his parents, Cheryl and Keith, surmised is the wind snapped a limb from atop a 40-foot tree. The falling limb struck Josh on the left side of his body, hitting him in the head, the shoulder and the arm before crashing to the ground.
The force of the plummeting limb knocked his spine out of alignment and severed his brachial artery, which is the major blood vessel that runs from the shoulder to the elbow.
Josh is not sure how long he was unconscious. But when he came to, he got himself off the ground and immediately felt like his arm was broken, he said.
Josh walked about 200 feet into the house and slumped to the floor in the living room, still wearing his helmet.
“It felt like a dream,” Josh said.
But the injury, and the resulting medical procedures and associated expenses, were real. To help pay the expenses, friends and family have organized a Port-A-Pit chicken fundraiser from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at North Hills Christian School, 2970 W. Innes St.
The fundraiser will also include a silent auction and a three-on-three basketball tournament, as well as live entertainment.
On the day of the accident, Josh’s 16-year-old brother Chris, had also been outside and heard their mother, Cheryl, call for him. By the time he made it to the house, an ambulance was waiting.
Cheryl at first thought her son was goofing around. Josh said he felt as though words were coming out of his mouth.
“I felt like I was talking,” he said. But his parents say he wasn’t.
Cheryl, who used to be an emergency medical technician, knew that whatever her son’s injuries were, they were serious.
“He was cold, clammy, pale and his heart rate was thready,” she said. “… It was a miracle he didn’t bleed to death.”
Medical responders wanted to fly Josh to Winston Salem, but the windy weather forced them to take him by ambulance to Rowan Regional Medical Center.
Josh was in pain and medics cut him out of his shirt to look for other injuries.
Cheryl jokingly recalled thinking it was his favorite shirt they were cutting.
Medics detected a faint pulse in his left arm.
At the hospital, doctors determined they had a six-hour window to perform surgery, or they’d have to amputate Josh’s arm. They took an artery from his inner thigh and placed it in his arm, his parents said.
Keith, Josh’s father, later searched near the dirt bike to look at the tree.
“He never knew what hit him,” he said.
Cheryl said Josh’s spine is “terribly out of place.” But she and Keith say it’s a miracle that he survived and he’s not fully paralyzed.
“It’s God,” Cheryl said.
And family members say they’re trusting God that Josh will make a complete recovery.
“It’s constantly on my mind. I’m always thinking and praying,” Keith said.
One of the toughest things for Keith was watching his youngest son go through such intense pain. His parents said medications often didn’t soothe the pain Josh was experiencing.
Doctors put 40 stitches in Josh’s arm and had to suction fluid from the arm following surgery.
Josh had to undergo tests to determine the lasting effects of the injury and whether it caused any permanent nerve damage, Keith explained.
Right after the accident, Josh could not move his arm. A month later, he started moving his arm. He’s now able to shrug his shoulder and lift his arm chest high.
“I can’t quite straighten it,” he said.
He can also twitch his fingers, but hasn’t been able to move his hand.
Since the normally active teenager doesn’t have use of his left hand, he’s made adjustments รณ like playing video games with his feet and maneuvering the joystick with his mouth, or riding the go-cart with his arm held to a pillow by an elastic bandage.
He’s had to change simple things, like switching the hand he normally uses to drink or getting help putting on socks from his mother.
The sometimes painful recovery has caused Josh frustration, his mother said.
“But he believes, and we believe, that God’s going to heal him. The Lord is going to work it out for the good,” Cheryl said.
About two or three times each week Josh sees an occupational therapist for a 30-45 minute session.
During Tuesday’s session, Brenda Mehrtens, a licensed occupational therapist, performed a few techniques designed to improve mobility and sensation.
“We’ll work on the activities of daily living like grooming,” Mehrtens said.
The therapist uses different textures to stimulate Josh’s hands, including rice and popcorn. The textures differ from semi-rough to soft, she said.
Mehrtens also had Josh lift his arm as far as he comfortably could to get the muscles moving.
“It’s all geared toward getting as much motion as possible,” Mehrtens said.
His parents continue his therapy at home.
There is no specific goal for when Josh should be able to lift his arm above his head. His family is playing it by ear. They are just glad for what he is able to do.
The family canceled their health insurance after their monthly payments reached into the thousands in medical expenses for son Chris, who has Crohn’s disease.
The idea for the fundraiser grew and so did the people willing to help.
“To be on the receiving end of all of this love is so humbling,” Cheryl said.
Many people pooled their resources to put on the Port-A-Pit fundraiser.
Members of Catawba College’s Student Government Association told the family and organizers not to be concerned about the cost of advertising and tickets for the fundraiser. Members used the fundraiser as a community service project and took care of it all.
Local businesses and friends donated items for the silent auction. Items include tickets to Walt Disney World and a couple of nights stay at a three-bedroom townhome outside Atlanta.
Jake Myers, the Lippard’s son-in-law is organizing the basketball tournament.
There is a $30 entry fee per three-on-three team for the tournament. Interested participants can also receive three tickets for $5 for a half court shot. For more information about the tournament, contact Myers at 704-279-1751.
The Rowan Homeschool Association is also helping.
Earlier this month, organizers raised $662 during a bake sale and Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries raised $857 through a celebrity chef fundraiser.
“We are really grateful for everyone who has been extremely generous,” said family friend Laurie Klaus.
Organizers hope to sell all 2,000 tickets for Saturday’s fundraiser. Tickets can be purchased at Rowan Decorating Center, 1021 Old W. Innes St.; Simply Good Foods on East Innes Street and Serendipity gift shop inside Godley’s Garden Center and Nursery at 2281 Statesville Blvd.
Tickets can also be purchased from any member of Catawba College’s Student Government Association. Checks can be written to Catawba College, in care of Josh Lippard.
Donations to help with the family’s medical expenses can be made to Franklin Baptist Church on West Innes Street, in care of Josh Lippard.
Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or