Trevor's Remarkable Recovery
The summer of 2008 had been a good one for Trevor Schultheis. He’d gone snorkeling in Hawaii with his parents and three brothers. And he was looking forward to his sixth year playing for the Hurricanes, a recreational basketball team. But his life took a drastic turn one warm August evening. Biking with his older brother and a friend near his Norwalk home, Trevor was hit by a truck and critically injured. Paramedics rushed the 10-year-old to Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach—home to one of only a few county-designated pediatric emergency departments and trauma centers in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.
After stabilizing Trevor, doctors at Miller Children’s worked to prevent further damage in the critical hours after the accident. To help relieve pressure on his brain, Trevor remained in a medically induced coma for nearly a month. His neurosurgeon also removed a section of his skull—called a bone flap—to reduce swelling. A month later, the bone flap was reattached and Trevor was moved from the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit to begin therapy in Miller Children’s rehabilitation program. Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach is one of only two freestanding children’s hospitals in Los Angeles County that provides specialized care for children throughout all stages of an illness or injury—from the moment they enter the emergency room throughout their rehabilitation and recovery.
“Pediatric rehabilitation specialists from Miller Children’s began to work with Trevor while he was still in the pediatric intensive care unit,” explains Kimberly BeDell, M.D., medical director of pediatric rehabilitation. By the time he was transferred to the rehabilitation department, he was ready to focus completely on his recovery.” To help restore his strength and functioning, Trevor worked with physical, speech and occupational therapists for three or four hours every weekday. He also had recreational therapy, which uses art, games and other activities to address children’s emotional and psychological needs.
“At first, he was so weak he couldn’t hold his head up,” says his mother, Karen. “He had to relearn absolutely everything, including how to open his mouth and swallow. But the progress he made in rehab was amazing. We saw astonishing changes every day.”
“The progress Trevor made in rehab was amazing. We saw astonishing changes every day.”
The first step was getting Trevor strong enough to stand so he could relearn how to walk using the parallel bars. At the same time, he had to reacquire the skills necessary to dress himself, brush his teeth and perform other daily activities. He also needed help with his short-term memory, which was severely affected by his injuries. “Memory is like a filing cabinet, but in Trevor’s case, all the files had fallen out,” explains his mother. She says her son worked diligently on his speech—often repeating dialogue he heard on TV and jokes his therapist told him. “Throughout it all, he never lost his irrepressible sense of humor,” she says proudly.
During treatment, Trevor’s parents were included in every aspect of his care. Every Wednesday, they met with the therapy team who outlined Trevor’s goals for the coming week. His brothers visited almost every day. “They have a wonderful program for siblings, including a special room with computer games, movies and toys,” Karen explains. “So while Trevor’s dad, older brother and I were with him, the younger boys spent time in the sibling room. They loved coming to the hospital.” Dr. BeDell emphasizes that the sibling program is essential. “We make every effort to ensure that parents can spend time with all their children—something that often isn’t possible in these circumstances. That’s one of the great benefits of a children’s hospital dedicated exclusively to the care of kids. The needs of children and their families come first.”
The rehabilitation team also made sure that Trevor’s transition to the outside world was as seamless as possible. His first outing was a trip to McDonald’s—a particular treat for a boy who had received his nourishment from a feeding tube for weeks. Before Trevor’s release from Miller Children’s, Dr. BeDell also met with administrators at his school to help set up an individualized education program for him. Miller Children’s rehab specialists even visited the Schultheis’ home to make sure it met their son’s needs and was safely furnished for him. Ensuring that care plans are followed and helping families feel prepared to take care of their children at home is an essential part of the hospital’s mission.
Trevor came home in November—much sooner than anyone expected. He continues to have therapy several days a week to work on his core strength, gait and speech. Because the right half of his brain was injured, most of his difficulties are on his left side. But after a recent five-mile bike ride with his mother, Trevor was jubilant about his improved strength and stamina. “He said, ‘Mom, my left side feels good and strong,’” reports Karen.
That doesn’t surprise Dr. BeDell. She and her staff have helped many children like Trevor make remarkable recoveries. She says that the rehabilitation program at Miller Children’s provides the best possible outcomes for children with brain and spinal cord injuries, as well as neuromuscular disorders. “We’re proud of what we do in our pediatric rehabilitation program,” says Dr. BeDell. “But we’re even prouder of what happens when our patients leave.”