Making a Difference #13: Sammy

Watch how the lives of Sammy and his parents have taken new shape since his injury. "Life changes, priorities change ..."

[♪mellow music♪] [Armando DeLeon] He used to be a baseball player before the accident. Sports was everything for him-- all types of sports but mainly baseball and football. He used to play baseball, I guess since the age of 6 all through high school. High school years he played baseball, and he was a real good ballplayer. Now... >>[Sandra DeLeon] He just sits and watches. [Armando] his response time is real slow. His reflexes are slow. He'll try to throw the ball every once in a while, and it's nothing to what the arm he had before. [Sammy DeLeon] I get up, take a shower. At times feed the dog. A lot of times I go outside, go for a walk. Play games. Yea, that's about it. [Armando DeLeon] It was right after 9/11, and he had gotten his orders that they were going to be deployed. That weekend their sergeant gave them a weekend off. And they went out and, typical kids, started nightclubbing here and there. On the way back to the base, he had an accident. [♪♪] [Sandra] It was so hard because he had to learn everything again--how to walk. It was very hard for him. It was very painful for him because when you are in a coma for any period of time, you get into the fetal position and everything cramps up on you, and you have the trouble of always wanting to go back. [♪♪] You could see that he was in pain. We weren't allowed to see him for a while because any kind of movement the heart rate would move real bad. I guess he could hear us and didn't know what to do about it since he was still kind of in a coma. And until Christmastime they allowed us to go back and see him for a little bit. And then after that we made arrangements to come to San Antonio. It was like a nursing home. He had to learn how to walk. I made him get up and take showers and, "You're going to walk." "You're not going to be crippled." And he would slack off. I'd say, "You're going to pick up that foot, and this is the way you walk with your arms." I was like a sergeant out there. [laughs] And he walked. [Sammy] Therapy. Four places. Away from my home. [Armando] Therapy. It was almost three years of therapy, 24 hours. Rehabs can only do so much. They do a lot. I'm not saying they don't. They do a lot of rehab. But... >>The family has to take part--has to take part. Without that, I don't think he could have really made it, and he would have just been there. We didn't want him to be dependent on us completely at all, so at first we wanted to make arrangements at our house to build a separate house upstairs, but it was breaking it down--or if we could find something else. And then our neighbor decided to sell and asked us if we were interested in buying and we were like, "Yeah,"-- right next door to us--so we did. On the outside, like the gazebo, things that he wants we always try to get for him. It's his money. He can do whatever he wants. And if he wants a gazebo to spend his whole afternoon out there, that's fine with us. Here we eat. There I cook a little bit. Very little. Here we eat. Mostly pizza. [Armando] It's just like anything else. You follow the same routine daily, daily: get on this bus, do this, do that. He's real good at it. [Sammy] This is my room. This is my room. Everything's here in my room. Stereo. Clothes. Bathroom. Everything. [Armando] It's tough financially. You could get in the hole real quick. Somehow you manage. There's some real good programs out there financially that will help you. They don't come looking for you. You need to go look for them. They'll give you this information, they'll give you this pamphlet, they'll give you a phone number, websites. You go out there and really start knocking on doors. And a lot of times it's not just phone calls. A lot of times it doesn't get through. You need to meet them one-to-one, tell them, "I know there's a program." "This happened to my son. How do I get in the system?" And there's always a big waiting line. But go out there. Family, friends. For a while there we kind of pulled back because we didn't want to be-- Life changes. Their life goes on, their work schedule goes on, their activities go on and yes, we get invited, but it's not the same. It's not the same. Your priorities change. Priorities change tremendously, and you have to decide. [Sandra] We spend a lot of time together. A lot of time. [Armando] Time goes real fast. Five years since his injury. It's like it just happened yesterday. But we sit down and we believe it's been five years already since his accident. "Remember when we planted that tree." "When did we plant this?" "That was before his accident." "That was after his accident." We just realized it. [♪♪] It was an accident, and we take it like that. Support. A lot of family support. Family does not have to be blood family. Volunteers. Support, family... >>[Sandra] And having good friends. [♪♪]
Posted on BrainLine April 8, 2011.

Produced by Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Council.