4-year-old recovering from severed skull
PHOENIX – The little man with the big smile was having a ball. As 4-year old Micah Andrews walked to the mound to throw out the first pitch at the Diamondbacks' game Tuesday, he acknowledged the growing ovation with wave after wave.
"He's been talking about this for so long," Micah's father John Andrews said.
It was not just the throw.
It was what spunky Andrews had been through.
Andrews was internally decapitated in an automobile accident two years ago but has recovered so well from intricate surgery that you would never know.
"I would call this a miracle, absolutely," neurosurgeon Dr. Nicholas Theodore said.
"He has every chance now for a normal life."
Dr. Theodore accompanied Micah to the mound Tuesday, just a miniscule part of the long road they have traveled together.
Micah, then 2, was strapped into a car seat in the back seat when another vehicle slammed into the passenger's front side in suburban Phoenix in August 2010. Mother Heather Andrews and her 4-year old daughter Elizabeth were not seriously injured, but the impact was so jarring that Micah's skull was separated from his spine.
He was carefully rushed to the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, one of the premier facilities in the U.S. caring for brain and spine injuries. In a surgery that took two hours, Dr. Theodore reattached the ligaments that held the skull to the spinal cord. It was a difficult, precise procedure.
"Micah's injury was very severe. The good news in his case was that the spinal cord was not significantly injured. So neurologically, he was doing quite well. It was touch-and-go for a while. With that injury, getting somebody positioned and ready for surgery, any wrong movement can cause injury to the spinal cord," Dr. Theodore said.
According to Barrow, the injury is treated by implanting a titanium loop to reattach the base of the skull to the spine. A piece of the patient's rib holds the rod in place. Dr. Theodore placed sandbags around Micah's head to stabilize it, and he was taped down.
John Andrews, who was not involved in the accident, met his family at St. Joseph's Hospital.
"At the time we heard what injury he had, it was shocking to us. It was as if someone was speaking about someone else's child. ‘No, that can't be. Not our child,'" Andrews said.
"Then the doctor showed us the images. But he reassured us that he could fix it. He didn't tell us he would walk again. He didn't guarantee that. It was something that we were certainly praying for. Sure enough. He came out of his coma. He moved his arms and legs. We jumped."
Micah traded his favorite handshake – high five, fist bump, nuggets – with his family and friends before throwing out the first pitch to D-backs left-hander Wade Miley.
"What a great kid. High five. Handshake. He did everything. To know what he's been through and see what he's doing now, that's awesome. He was excited to be out there," Miley said.
"It put a smile on his face and a smile on ours."
Micah has lost some mobility in his neck is still undergoing therapy.
"To see how well he does … every time I see him he gets better and better," Dr. Theodore said.
"He's not going to play football. But he can play baseball."
Yes, he can.
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