One Hermiston family knows the pain of traumatic brain injury.
Caleb Moore, 11, injured his head in a bicycle crash last November as he cruised along Hermiston’s Fourth Street. The boy’s BMX-style bike suddenly broke where the front forks meet the head tube and he landed on his chin, breaking his jaw and shaking his brain. The bike helmet he wore may have prevented even worse damage.
A year later, he still loses his balance and suffers from headaches, light sensitivity, irritability and double vision. To keep his brain calm, he wears glasses with blue lenses and his mom painted his bedroom blue. He has trouble remembering. His parents and siblings divide their time between home and Portland’s Ronald McDonald House as Caleb undergoes surgery, testing and therapy. The Hermiston boy spent more than a month with his jaw wired shut, sipping chicken broth and smoothies through a straw.
Worst of all, he is losing his sight. Though his eyes work fine, the part of the brain controlling vision is malfunctioning.
These days, Caleb spends some of his limited free time convincing other people to guard their brains. At the Hermiston Family Health & Fitness Fair in September, he handled squishy replicas of the brain, gave out leaflets about brain protection and shyly stood by as his mother, Rachel Moore, told his story. Other volunteers fitted free bike helmets.
Kayt Zundel, program director for OHSU Think First Oregon, worked with Caleb in the booth.
“He wanted people to hear his story,” Zundel said.
Though Caleb wore a helmet and was well-versed in bicycle safety, his bike was old. They’d gotten it used, a second coat of paint obscuring the brand name. Caleb occasionally jumped the bike off a several-inch-high ramp.
His mother says she is stunned at how swiftly the accident upended her family. She aches for Caleb, and worries about her other four children — they range in age from four to 18.
Because of their numerous trips to Portland for treatment, Tom and Rachel Moore moved their children to the Echo School District because of its four-day-a-week schedule. The couple’s oldest child, Lauryn, who graduated from Hermiston High School last spring, often delivers and collects her younger siblings from school when her parents are busy with Caleb’s care. Their budget is strained. They are behind on house payments.
Caleb’s father, Tom Moore, an information systems analyst for Lockheed Martin in Richland, Wash., was between jobs at the time of the accident. The Oregon Health Plan pays for Caleb’s care, though potentially not some of the expensive therapy, meals and gasoline, said Rachel.
In the near future, La Fiesta of Pendleton will cater a benefit in January to aid the family. The date and location are not yet set.
Caleb will soon travel to the Seattle Children’s Hospital’s TBI clinic for therapy and Seattle’s Intercranial Facial Surgery Clinic for additional jaw surgery.
Rachel said the stress of the past year weighs on her. She often goes online to a Facebook support group for parents, spouses and other caregivers.
She worries about her two youngest boys. Recently, 4-year-old Nathaniel fell and bumped his chin. He ran to his mother and said, “Look, Mommy, I hurt my chin. I’ve got a brain injury.”
“I used to think that they’re boys — they’ll get bumps and bruises,” she said. “Every little thing scares me now.”
Contact Kathy Aney at email@example.com or 541-966-0810.
This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.