No one knows for sure what happened Jan. 17.
Jeremy Barkdoll of Boonsboro said he remembers telling his 13-year-old son, Jakob, to go get the mail. He looked away for a few seconds and when he turned around, the boy was lying on the ground, his four-wheeler beside him.
“I turned around for maybe five seconds when I heard a friend scream,” Jeremy Barkdoll said.
Jakob was seizing from the impact of flipping his four-wheeler, and Jeremy Barkdoll said he later learned it was a result of his son sustaining severe head trauma.
“I really thought I was going to lose my son,” Barkdoll said.
Jakob was taken to Meritus Medical Center, then airlifted to The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where he spent the next month recuperating.
For his mother, Ann Barkdoll, the time after the accident was surreal.
“It was really hard,” she said. “He’s my only child.”
Sedated into a coma to allow his brain to begin a critical healing process, Jakob’s first few days at Johns Hopkins were “touchy,” his mother said.
Jeremy Barkdoll said that while his son was at Kennedy Krieger Institute for rehabilitation at Johns Hopkins in early February, he spent a lot of time praying for a miracle.
“I wanted a miracle, and I got one,” he said.
For his son to go from nearly dead to walking and back in school in five short weeks is nothing short of a miracle, Jeremy Barkdoll said.
Jeremy Barkdoll said that within a few weeks, Jakob, an eighth-grader at Boonsboro Middle School, started walking again and learning to reuse the left side of his body, the side that sustained the most damage in the fall.
While he did not break any bones, the impact on his head affected the part of Jakob’s brain that controls his left side, Jeremy Barkdoll said.
Despite his speech being slowed and his mobility being limited, Jakob had been itching to return home to family, friends and his Labrador retrievers, Mady and Marley, Ann Barkdoll said.
“He had a social studies project coming due he was so worried about,” she said.
Jakob returned home Feb. 15, but his long road to recovery was far from over.
“There really isn’t such a thing as full recovery with brain injury, but will he be a normal 13-year-old again? Yes,” Jeremy Barkdoll said.
Jakob attends physical and occupational therapy a few days a week at Total Rehab Care at Robinwood Professional Center, his mother said in an e-mail.
Although he is back in school, he cannot write with his left hand, so his friends and family have to help him, his father said.
Laughing, Jeremy Barkdoll said, “I didn’t do my own homework in school. Now, I’m doing his.”
Until he is healed, Jakob’s favorite activities — hunting, tractor pulling and playing football — have taken a back seat to his health, his mother said.
“It’s going to be a long road, getting him back to the little boy who loves to do tractor pulling,” his father said.
Because of the high-impact nature of the sport, it is unclear if Jakob’s doctors will ever give him the OK to play football again, Jeremy Barkdoll said.
There has been an outpouring of requests from the community asking what can be done to help the family, friend Tiffany Hardy wrote in an e-mail.
Jakob’s parents said he faces a long, expensive road to recovery, which will include additional doctor visits, and continued physical and occupational therapy.
Hardy said a health-benefit fund has been set up in Jakob Barkdoll’s name at The Columbia Bank to help with his medical bills.
Donations may be made at any branch location or mailed to Jakob Barkdoll Health Benefit Account, c/o Tiffany Hardy, 20845 Reno Monument Road, Boonsboro, MD 21713.