GETTING WELL: Recovering From A Bullet To The Brain

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“They gave him 5% chance to make  it,” says Tina Wells about her 12-year-old son, Michael.

Last September,  the 7th grader beat the odds when he survived a point-blank gunshot to the head.   Doctors had to remove more than 10-percent of his brain.  Michael went from his hospital bed to a wheelchair.  Now, he is learning to walk again.

“It`s really hard work,” he says. Painful too and not just for him. “It`s hard watching him suffer,” says Tina.

At On With Life in Ankeny, Michael wills his body to put one foot in front of the other.

“I`ll try to be back to where I was even though I know I won`t be able to get 100% back to where I was, but you can try,” says Michael.

That never-quit attitude is paying off.  On With Life therapy manager Dave Anders says his progress, while significant, is only the beginning.

“Physical recovery comes more quickly than does things like thinking skills, attention and memory and problem solving and those types of skills tend to take a little bit longer,” says Anders.

Michael spends up to four hours a day in therapy.  During his music sessions, his dancing and walking to the beat helps with his mobility and his singing along, helps with his speech.  Learning how to follow simple directions starts in the kitchen by using the right utensils and ingredients to make double chocolate cookies.

“To be able to read instructions and follow those instructions, you know that`s a basic cognitive language-based skill that can really affect someone`s functioning,” says Anders.

It's a basic skill he needs for day-to-day living.  Until he masters it, this is home, even if it doesn't feel this way.

“It`s hard to leave him here, but I know that he`s in good hands,” says Tina.

Michael wants to leave, he isn't ready yet, but his day will come.

“You`ve got a kid whose highly motivated, you`ve got a kid whose got a great sense of humor, he`s got a good support system,” says Anders.

“I know if I stop now, it`s not going to get me anywhere and if I keep going the way that I am, then I know I can get better,” says Michael.

“He was 12 going into surgery and came out 21,” says Tina.

In time, she hopes her son can go back to being a 12-year-old boy.

Michael hopes he can go home in April or May and continue his therapy at On With Life.  Friends set up an account at Wells Fargo to help the family during his recovery.  Donations can be made to Tina and Mike Wells at any Wells Fargo branch.