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Cheerleader home, recovering

March 07, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. - When Julie Reeves' song "What I Need" came on the radio Monday morning, Amanda Cummings joined in. It was then that Amanda's mother, Cindy, was sure her 16-year-old daughter would be OK.

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Since Wednesday, when a collision during a basketball game caused a blood clot in her head, Amanda, a Hedgesville High School cheerleader, hadn't been her usual singing self.

Doctors at Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown removed the clot Friday, two days after Amanda was accidentally elbowed in the right temple by a Hedgesville player going after a loose ball. She tried to get out of the way, but took a step into his path instead.

The momentum smashed the left side of her head against a gymnasium wall. Some said the noise sounded like a gunshot.

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She collapsed and struck the back of her head on the gym floor, briefly falling unconscious.

Amanda came home from the hospital about 2 p.m. Monday. Within a half-hour, she had answered about 10 phone calls from well-wishers, Cindy Cummings said.

Amanda's father, Tom, said support and concern for his daughter has been overflowing. What seemed like 500 phone calls came in the first four days and 500 more on Sunday and Monday, he said.

Still sluggish, Amanda sat in a recliner her first day home, a phone at her side. She wore a blue Mickey Mouse T-shirt and a thin blanket covered her legs. Molly, the friendlier of the family's two cats, was curled in her lap.

Amanda said the gravity of her injury hadn't sunk in yet - the four titanium plates in her head, the three fractures of her skull, the bone splinters poking the protective covering over her brain.

She and her family - her mom and dad, 14-year-old sister Katy and 25-year-old brother Paul - talked about the ordeal openly, and at times lightly.

"The principal told us he'd have the school demagnetized," Cindy Cummings joked.

"I'd stick to the lockers," Amanda added.

She pushed her long brown hair past her left ear, revealing the incision on her head, but only after she's assured a viewer won't be "grossed out."

Her left eye is deeply bruised and blood red.

Yet, she's lucky, the family said.

Wednesday night, Amanda's parents, who were at the game but didn't see the collision, drove her to City Hospital in Martinsburg.

Amanda's first thought was: "Just a bad headache."

She had no signs of a head injury. No lack of coordination, no vomiting, no disorientation.

"Irritability," she added to her father's list.

"Nah, you had that anyway," he shot back.

Amanda was sent home, but the hospital advised the parents to watch for post-concussive syndrome symptoms, such as slurred speech and dizziness.

The family expected Amanda to be back at school on Friday, perhaps on the sidelines again to cheer Hedgesville on.

But when Amanda threw up four times on Thursday, her parents took her to their family doctor's office. A physician's assistant recommended a CAT scan, a more detailed look at the brain. They went back to City Hospital.

Tests revealed a skull fracture and a buildup of blood. Amanda said the clot was between the dura (the brain covering) and the skull.

The pain was so great, she said, that she didn't hesitate to choose surgery over four to six weeks of waiting for the clot to dissolve.

She said she has no fear of getting back into cheerleading.

When the 13-member team does a pyramid, Amanda is a "climber," meaning she is at the top, oddly appropriate for someone considering an architecture or engineering career.

She also gets thrown in the air and caught by other cheerleaders. Once, she chipped her elbow during a fall.

"People say, 'Cheerleading's not a sport. It's just a hobby,'" Amanda said, shaking her head.

Amanda let some of her competitive nature show when she talked about her boyfriend, Anthony Regalbuto, who just won his second straight state wrestling championship. They play each other at cards and pingpong, and they play to win, she said.

Hedgesville beat Jefferson, 61-56, on Wednesday, but lost to Martinsburg, 54-48, on Friday.

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