WOODSTOCK – Aug. 16 was circled on many calendars of those with children in District 200. It was the first day of a new school year, and not anything new or particularly special for most kids.
But for Woodstock High School senior Morgan Hofmann, that Thursday was a milestone and a day his family feared might not come.
Hofmann suffered a traumatic brain injury April 6 while long-boarding – riding a long skateboard – with friends in Bull Valley.
It happened so quickly.
When Hofmann’s head collided with the pavement on Good Friday, friend Adam Steinken ran to him and quickly realized it was no ordinary fall.
“I was in shock almost when I saw him laying there,” Steinken said. “I just quickly called 911 because I am a certified lifeguard.” He said Morgan looked like some of the pictures in his emergency training book, and “I knew it was serious.”
Emergency personnel credited Steinken for his quick response and the wherewithal to call 911, noting that teenagers sometimes tend to cover up things or try to walk off injuries.
An emergency dispatcher placed Flight for Life – McHenry on standby.
“When we got there we could see we needed to act fast,” said Eric Lozowski, a Woodstock firefighter and paramedic.
It took about six first-responders to sedate and intubate Hofmann because he didn’t know what was going on and was pulling out his IV’s and shrieking.
The medical helicopter had been dispatched. Patty Mitchell, a Flight for Life registered nurse, and flight paramedic Scott Anderson were among those who saw Hofmann to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge – a Level 1 pediatric trauma care center.
It was 59 minutes from the 911 call to the trauma room.
Doctors said Hofmann’s prognosis was bleak. A brace stabilized his neck and spine. A machine breathed for him. Another monitored his brain activity.
About a year and half ago, Lutheran General was selected for a promising trial program to test a new drug. With an OK from Hofmann’s parents, Dan and Camille, Morgan was enrolled in a multinational study on the use of progesterone for patients with traumatic brain injury.
Progesterone, traditionally used in hormone replacement therapy for post-menopausal women, according to the National Institutes of Health, is designed to protect brain tissue, Kathy Tanouye of Lutheran General explained.
“Fetuses go through a tremendous amount of trauma during birth, but they do not have brain damage,” she said.
The brain has many progesterone receptors and researchers are looking into whether it can help in brain injuries. It is unknown whether Hofmann received progesterone or a placebo, but that information will become available in six months.
Regardless, Hofmann’s recovery has been called miraculous.
Hofmann was discharged in just 24 days – on April 30 – to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Neurosurgeons said it was astonishing. He then improved quickly and was discharged to outpatient care at Centegra Neuro-Rehabilitation Center in Crystal Lake.
He made unprecedented strides.
The first time he sat up in the hospital, he was dizzy and had double vision, but began talking as soon as the breathing tube was removed. The next day he was able to walk to the door in his room with the help of physical therapists. He began walking more and more, surprising everyone. He had to train his balance, hone his speaking and, when he was able, catch up on school work.
“I missed most of the final quarter,” Hofmann said. “When I was a lot better, I was given packets of homework and material that I had to complete and study because I had to make up finals.”
On Wednesday, Woodstock Fire Station No. 3 held a gathering for the first responders, Woodstock’s fire and rescue team, Flight for Life personnel, Lutheran General nurses and therapists, Centegra representatives, and Hofmann’s family and friends. More than 50 people showed up.
Hofmann was given a plaque, and those who helped him said their profession is validated every time something like this happens.
“This is why we do what we do,” paramedic Lozowski said. “I wish we could hold something like this every week, but sadly it doesn’t always work out like that. It was an amazing experience.”
Hofmann looks much different than in pictures of him in the hospital bed with wires protruding, seeming from everywhere, on his body. His curly hair hides the spot where is head met the pavement, and he assures everyone that such an accident won’t happen again.
“I’m selling my long-board,” he said. “I’ll have some more money, too, so it’s a win-win.
“And the only difference about me right now is that I can’t smell. It’s pretty annoying, but I guess sometimes it could be a good thing,” he said with a laugh.