Topanga Messenger - August 27, 2015 - By Annemarie Donkin
Scores of Topangans, family and friends gathered underneath the great oak tree at the Community House ball field on Sunday, August 16, to celebrate the miraculous recovery of young Teddy Ward, the five-year-old boy who fell about 20 feet into Topanga Creek in May and suffered skull and brain injuries.
At the party, about 30 kids, including Teddy sporting a bike helmet, ran around throwing water balloons while their parents chatted, nibbled on tacos and sipped Sangria.
According to Teddy’s mother, Lisa Ward, it was a combination thank-you party for those who prayed, gave gifts, sent love and food, and also to wish Teddy an enthusiastic “Happy Birthday” and “Welcome Home!” from the hospital.
Lisa Ward recounted the terrible event when, on May 13, at 5.30 p.m., she got the call that every parent dreads that “changed her life irrevocably.
“My youngest son Teddy, age 5, had a terrible accident doing what every Topanga kids does, climbing on rocks around our creek,” she recalled via e-mail. “He was playing with his brothers (Luc, 10, and Cole, 8) at a friend’s house that backs onto the Creek in Fernwood; the kids were playing there and one of the older kids climbed higher than usual and Teddy followed. He slipped and fell about 20 feet and landed on his head, no other broken bones.” Lisa said that her son, Luc, got the attention of Julie McInally when he shouted up the hillside to people above to call 9-1-1.
“Teddy was with his [two] brothers and their friends and, in a heartbeat, all our worlds were turned upside down when Teddy fell and suffered a severe head injury resulting in major brain trauma,” Lisa said.
Lisa and her husband, Dan, rushed to the scene and struggled to reach Teddy down by the Creek. Locals cut brush with machetes and helped steady ladders so the paramedics and firefighters could carry Teddy to the waiting ambulance where they were taken to a waiting helicopter hovering above the S-Curves.
“It was so surreal lifting off over Topanga. I was in such shock that I still could not take in what was happening to my baby, only that he knew I was with him; he had made eye contact with me as he was loaded into the Medivac [helicopter],” Lisa said. “I continuously called to him letting him know I was there. The paramedic on board never strapped himself in but knelt over Teddy, working furiously. What a hero!”
Lisa and Teddy arrived at UCLA within minutes and were met by about 90 medical professionals. By the time her husband, Dan, arrived by car Teddy was already in surgery. Lisa and Dan waited with her sister, Sarah, and a friend for three hours until he came out of surgery and entered the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
“He was sedated and swathed in bandages, tubes and wires and the praying began,” Lisa said. “Not just the praying; healing thoughts, messages of love, gifts, white light, people who have never prayed before were praying now in every faith in many countries but mostly in Topanga. She said that within 24 hours a meal train had been set up bringing the family meals and groceries for the coming months.
“The blessings did not stop here,” she continued. “The outpouring of love began and, amidst the most terrible tragedy, we started to feel the surge of love and prayers and healing and positive energy that surrounded us and our sweet angel, Teddy.”
According to the doctors and neurosurgeons at UCLA, who saved his life, Teddy is a “warrior” who has defied the odds and survived without severe brain damage; they started calling his recovery “miraculous.” After surgery and two-weeks’ recovery at UCLA, Teddy’s next step was to be transferred to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for five weeks of intensive rehabilitation.
“No child with this severity of brain trauma should be recovering the way he is,” Lisa said. “I know why and I kept telling people, ‘it is not surprising if you only knew how loved we are, what Topanga is like and how much love they have to give, and how they weep for Teddy as one of their own. He has become Topanga’s baby and is loved by them all; they are spreading the word to pray for this child and it is working.’”
After more miraculous recovery, Teddy was transferred back to UCLA for a cranioplasty, i.e., putting his skull back together. “The incredible plastics team at UCLA used only his own bone to cover the gap, taking the broken retrieved bone and splitting it width-ways to cover twice the area and taking more bone from the other side and splitting that,” Lisa said. “It means his skull is half the thickness on one side of his head but he will not need another surgery to remove a plate down the line. The bone grows and after two years will be normal thickness but bone would have grown over a plate that would need to be removed later. He has to wear a helmet for a few months and we have been doing outpatient therapy in Encino since being released after his second surgery on June 29,” she said.
On August 18, Teddy started kindergarten at Topanga Elementary with Ms. Handler.
“He did great, better than expected,” Lisa said. “He had me at his side until an aide is available but he needed me less than I expected; they are now predicting Teddy will make a full recovery mentally and physically in a year.”
Teddy’s friends are also glad to see him back in action, running around like any other kid. “Teddy taught me how to break dance,” said Tristan Day, 6, who will be with him in Kindergarten. “We like to play surfer and police.”
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