Pushin’ for recovery

Written By  Beth Anne Atkins  on  6/1/12
Pushin’ for recovery
A skateboarding accident left Davie Swinson, 18, of Maple Hill in Onslow County critically injured, but today he’s back at school and enjoying the outdoors, thanks to care from Vidant Children’s Hospital


GREENVILLE, NC – A terrible crash almost took his life, but Davie Swinson, 18, never stopped pushing to get better. As he rode a skateboard in front of his home, a truck driving 55 miles per hour struck him. His life changed forever, leaving him with broken ribs and vertebrae, crushed lungs, internal bleeding and a serious head injury.

Yet guided by his will, faith and optimism, he overcame his injuries and today, is on track to graduate from high school after a successful recovery at Vidant Medical Center. Thanks to long-term treatments at the hospital’s pediatric rehabilitation unit, he once again has a normal teenager’s life.

“Miracles do happen,” he says in his account of the 2009 accident and recovery.

“In Peds, you don’t say ‘I can’t;’ you try it, you do it, then you feel good about yourself.”
To overcome his trauma, he did just that. He never gave up, never took the easy way. With courage he faced uncomfortable and even painful exercises that allowed him to regain his muscle strength. Five months after his accident, he returned home and relearned to walk, speak and read. These days, he’s back to normal life as a teenager, fishing, hiking and camping around his Maple Hill home.

Swinson is this year’s teen ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. He will represent Vidant Children’s Hospital during this year’s Celebration Broadcast. The yearly fundraising event, now in its 27th year, is set to air June 1 and 3 on WITN. The 2012 miracle children in addition to Davie Swinson are Evan Salerno, 3, of Jacksonville at Camp Lejeune; Ava Gee, 6, of Greenville; Kennedy Dean, 7, of Pikeville in Wayne County; and Miranda Hale, 14, of Tarboro.

They recovered from serious illness or injury through the medical care they received at Vidant Children’s Hospital in Greenville.

“This year’s Miracle Children are unbelievable,” says Dr. Ronald M. Perkin, co-director of Vidant Children’s Hospital and professor and chairman, Department of Pediatrics, Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. “Each one’s ability to carry on with a successful life is due to a response to the medical needs we provided when they most desperately needed it. Having this hospital in the community is what that’s all about.
“The community shows how much it cares about children by providing contributions to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals,” he says. “In turn, their generosity grants us the resources we need to see beyond the obvious treatments and save more lives.”

This year, the broadcast will celebrate these children and the generous donors whose gifts made their life-saving care possible. Their support has helped with the expansion of Vidant Children’s Hospital. It will add 78,000 additional square feet for children’s care, including a new kids immunosuppressed special unit with a controlled environment and special ventilation systems to reduce the possibility for infection. It will have a treatment and recovery area for children who do not need an overnight stay. A newborn convalescent area will give newborns and their families private rooms while they grow stronger.

“Our donors make the difference for children throughout eastern North Carolina,” says Laura Lee Potter, program director for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. “They save lives and bring miracles to thousands of children each year by sharing their financial resources, volunteer hours and other types of support. Their generosity makes sure we can provide advanced medical care, close to home, to the families and children who depend on us.”

Those miracle recoveries include Swinson, who almost died while being airlifted to Greenville by Vidant Medical Transport. After arriving at the trauma center, he was so unstable that doctors made no promises to his parents.

“He was the sickest person in the hospital,” his mother, Tammy Swinson, remembers. “He was close to death at every minute.”

His doctors placed him in a temporary medically induced coma, and he had to breathe through a ventilator. He underwent surgery to relieve swelling and pressure in his belly after developing stomach compartment syndrome. His intestines were covered with skin grafts while his internal injuries healed.
Once he regained consciousness, his real work began.

He moved to the pediatric rehabilitation unit, one of only two like it in the state. His nurses kept him on a routine as he improved. Much harder was the constant struggle against muscle contractions caused by his head injury. His brain mistakenly sent tensing signals to his legs and feet, leaving his body curved in a banana shape. He fought it with stretching exercises.

In addition to the muscle spasms, he faced a loss of memory and ability. He had to start from scratch, his mom remembers.

“He had to relearn everything all over again,” she says. “It was difficult for him to add two plus two.”

Aggressive exercise regimens while hospitalized allowed his muscles to loosen and work more normally. In addition, the hospital teacher spent time with him every day, and he returned to his grade level. Once he returned home, where he lives with his mother and father, Davie Swinson Sr., he continued his studies. He’s on the principal’s list at Richlands High School and is expected to graduate from high school in 2013.

“He has to apply himself harder to get his work done,” Tammy says. “It takes him longer, because he learns more slowly. We have to work harder at it.”

As with his physical recovery, he “keeps on pushing’” with his studies.

“He doesn’t give up, and will keep working, plugging away, until I tell him to take a break,” she says. “He’s not one to quit.”



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Vidant Health, a mission-driven, not-for-profit corporation, owns, leases or has a majority membership interest in nine eastern North Carolina hospitals and has a management agreement with one other. The health system includes Albemarle Health, Vidant Beaufort Hospital, Vidant Bertie Hospital, Vidant Chowan Hospital, Vidant Duplin Hospital, Vidant Edgecombe Hospital, The Outer Banks Hospital, Vidant Medical Center, Vidant Pungo Hospital, Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital, Vidant Home Health and Hospice, Vidant Wellness Centers, Vidant Medical Group and is affiliated with the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. On the web at www.vidanthealth.com.