Nunda Teenager Recovering from Devastating Brain Injury

May 29, 2003

Linda Craft remembers the fear she felt last summer, hours after her son was involved in a horrifying car accident. “Not knowing whether he’d make it through the first night, that was the hardest part of all,” she says.

Although he still suffers from some side effects of the injury he sustained during the crash, Cody Craft, 13, has made great strides in his recovery. That he is alive today is testament to the medical care provided by Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong, his family’s support and faith, and a healthy dose of good fortune.

As part of its Miracle Weekend celebration, Cody was named one of the hospital’s five 2003 Miracle Kids. His story will be featured during the Golisano Children’s Hospital Telethon on 10NBC May 31 and June 1.

Last July, Cody and his father, Robert, were sitting in their car, patiently waiting to be waved through an accident scene on Route 390, south of Henrietta. Without notice, their car was violently rear-ended by a large truck. The impact of the crash sent Cody forward, and his head was forced into the metal post between the door and the windshield.

While Cody’s father was airlifted to Strong Memorial Hospital, Cody was treated at the scene by medics, and rushed via ambulance to Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong. Once he was stabilized, Cody underwent emergency brain surgery. Howard Silberstein, M.D., Rochester’s only pediatric neurosurgeon, says Cody was in a dire situation. “Cody suffered a severe head injury,” Silberstein says. “He was falling into a deep coma. It was uncertain that we would be able to bring him back.”

Children such as Cody are fortunate to have skilled surgeons such as Silberstein close to home. Silberstein, who worked in Rochester as an adult neurosurgeon for nearly 10 years, left his home during the summer 2000 to take part in a 12-month fellowship at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. There, he honed his surgical skills while working with some of the most prominent pediatric neurosurgeons in the country. “I always wanted to do pediatric neurosurgery, but the timing wasn’t right,” Silberstein says.

“When the opportunity arose to be the pediatric neurosurgeon for children in this part of the state, I jumped at the chance,” Silberstein says. “Kids face different conditions and problems than adults do. As a pediatric neurosurgeon, we help the sick child, and help the parents to understand what the child is facing.”

At Golisano Children's Hospital, Silberstein treats children with a wide variety of conditions, including hydrocephalus, central nervous systems tumors, craniosynostosis, spina bifida, and spasticity. Fortunately for children such as Cody, Silberstein also is skilled in helping children who have suffered severe trauma and brain injuries.

 “Cody had a depressed skull fracture, with brain bruising and swelling,” Silberstein says. “He was deteriorating quickly and underwent emergency surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain. We removed several temporal lobe blood clots and left part of the skull bone off to accommodate his swollen brain.”

After the surgery, Cody was taken to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. “Dr. Silberstein and the PICU staff were wonderful,” says Linda Craft, Cody’s mother. “They were always honest with us, keeping us hopeful, but also grounded in reality.”

Cody stayed in the PICU for weeks, slowly making progress and eventually healing enough that he could go home. During the winter, Cody underwent surgery to replace part of the skull bone. An eighth-grader at Keshequa Central School, he is being tutored at home this year and hopes to return to school in the fall. He suffers from occasional memory loss, and has lost some of his vision, his doctors marvel at how he has recovered from such a devastating injury.

Miracle Weekend is always one of the most exciting times of the year for Golisano Children’s Hospital. Proceeds will help fund priority projects, such as a new, 22-bed Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit the hospital intends to build.

Miracle Weekend includes two major events. The Golisano Children’s Hospital Telethon will be broadcast live from the hospital May 31 and June 1 on 10NBC. In addition, Miracle Weekend always includes the Stroll for Strong Kids, to be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 31, at Genesee Valley Park. Children’s activities and registration will begin at 9 a.m. When finished with their Stroll, walkers will be treated to a free lunch provided by Outback Steakhouse. There will be music by Gary the Happy Pirate, and many fun activities for the kids.

Participants are asked to raise money through sponsorship pledges from family members, friends and co-workers. Last year, some 1,000 people took part, raising more than $100,000 for Golisano Children’s Hospital. To register for the Stroll for Strong Kids, or learn more about any Miracle Weekend event, call 585-273-5948.

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