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Girl hit by van improves after suffering setback

August 30, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Deep concern has given way to renewed hope for the Shockey/Heise family as 5-year-old Shania Shockey's condition appeared to improve seven days after she was rushed back to Children's Medical Center from a Baltimore rehabilitation center.

Doctors say the latest complications caused by the severe head injuries the Hagerstown girl suffered last month after being struck by a van may not prove to be a major setback.

Shania was listed in serious condition Friday at Children's Medical Center in Washington, a hospital spokesman said.

Bill Heise, Shania's father, said the girl was readmitted to the hospital on Aug. 22, two days after she was transferred from the center to Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore for rehabilitation. Heise said the family was upset at the news of additional health complications, but is hopeful again following continued positive progress.

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"We were definitely worried because she had to go back so fast," Heise said. "She's obviously not out of the red yet. But, we're being optimistic about it because she's doing better."

Dr. Miriam Bloom, a pediatric doctor at Children's Medical Center assigned to Shania, said the girl had to be brought back to the center because she was leaking spinal fluid from her ears, indicating there is still an opening in her skull following a fracture. Bloom said infections caused by the leakage, which is not an uncommon reaction based on the severity of Shania's injuries, have led to meningitis.

"It is a portal for infection; that's the danger," Bloom said.

In severe cases, meningitis can cause acute and long-term issues pertaining to a child's development and hearing functions, Bloom said. She said doctors are not yet sure of the severity of Shania's case.

Bloom also said there is a possibility doctors will have to operate to repair the gap in Shania's skull, though there is hope it will seal on its own. Doctors will not have to operate on her brain, Bloom said.

Shania was injured on July 21 when a van struck her in a lot behind her 50 E. Baltimore St. home, Hagerstown city police said. Police did not charge the driver, 24-year-old Roger Seal.

Shania spent about two weeks in an induced coma at Washington County Hospital following the accident. Heise said doctors told the family the accident resulted in damage to three-quarters of her brain and they nearly took her off life support.

Bloom said Shania is showing many signs that she is improving. Last week's downturn in Shania's recovery appears to be a setback but not an indication of a grave outlook, according to Bloom.

"She will need intensive rehab, but she's making excellent progress," Bloom said. "She's speaking and answering questions appropriately."

Bloom, who met Shania for the first time Thursday, was surprised by how well the girl is doing despite what she has been through.

"She's got a good sense of humor," Bloom said. "She is a lot more aware and able to joke about things than you'd expect. She's so much better than I think people thought she'd be."

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