Luke Holko, Age 11, from Greene, OH
Luke Holko took his first ride in a helicopter when he was 4. Although he doesn’t remember the flight, he does know it helped save his life.
On Sept. 2, 2009, Luke was struck by a foul ball at a Mahoning Valley Scrappers baseball game. The ball crushed part of Luke’s skull, pushing a bone fragment into his brain and knocking him unconscious.
Luke was life-flighted to Akron Children’s Hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit. To reduce the swelling on his brain, doctors had to cut out part of his skull bone to relieve the pressure and place him in a medically-induced coma to stabilize him.
Luke was in a coma for 9 days.
“The doctors weren’t sure when he’d ever come out of his coma,” said Luke’s mom, Nicole. “I’ll never forget the feeling of Luke squeezing my finger…I knew he could hear us.”
During his month-long stay in the PICU, Luke underwent 4 surgeries – feeding tube placement, tracheotomy for breathing assistance, a picc line placement to receive medicine and fluids, and bone grafting to replace part of his skull that was previously removed.
“The damage to his brain affected his speech and motor skills so he had to relearn how to do everything – walk, talk, sit up, eat – he basically went back to infancy,” said Luke’s dad, Chad.
For the next 6 months, Luke spent 5 days a week, 6 hours a day in occupational, physical and speech therapy.
“We live an hour away so the therapy was challenging logistically, but it was nothing compared to what Luke was going through in therapy,” said Nicole. “Dr. Baird made a special place for Luke in Day Rehab, which really helped…we’re forever grateful for that.”
Luke also suffered damaged to the nerve in his left ear, causing permanent hearing loss. He wears a brace on his right leg for support, especially when playing sports. His brain can’t tell his foot to pick it up all the way so he drags his toe.
Luke continues physical therapy and other treatments on his legs to fine-tune his range of motion and muscles as he grows. He also continues to check in with Dr. Baird every 6 weeks.
“The baseball community, local community, our Akron Children’s family, our own family, even strangers really rallied around him throughout all of this,” said Nicole. “It’s such a great feeling to know so many people care about our Luke.”
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