Nine months after near fatal tragedy, Denzel Robinson is walking again

Robinson-8994It was just nine months ago that Emma Robinson’s world nearly came crashing down around her. It was Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 23 shortly after school let out when calamity struck.

Her son Denzel, 14 at the time, was riding his bicycle near the intersection of Arcola Road and First Avenue in Demopolis when he was struck by a drunk driver.

Denzel’s injuries were severe enough that he was immediately flown to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.

“The neurologist said he wouldn’t be able to function because he was brain dead for six minutes,” Emma said of her son’s plight. “They had to shock him six times in order for his heart to get started. When we left Demopolis, he was barely breathing.”

Robinson-8983But, despite the dire circumstances and the daunting prognosis that he faced, Denzel would survive and ultimately be able to make it out of the hospital just in time for his 15th birthday, which came April 2.

“They said he was going to be in a vegetated state. He wasn’t going to be able to walk, talk, do nothing for himself,” Emma said of the state in which doctors at Children’s Hospital said her son would most likely remain. “He was in a coma for seven days. After he came out of the coma, after he woke up, he started responding with his eyes. When we came home, he was bed ridden. I just worked with him and prayed and this is where he’s at now.”

“He had a lot of swelling on the brain, so initially he was completely non-communicative. He was completely non-ambulatory. He had almost no motor activity. That’s kind of where they told her he would be,” Skibo Holman, owner of Genesis Rehab and a licensed physical therapist, said. “They wanted me, initially, to go over to his house and evaluate him and there was not a lot of potential there. Then I saw him again in a short time and he was sitting up, talking to people, wanting to get up and walk, wanting to get up in the chair.”

Robinson-8988Where Denzel is now is nothing short of astounding. His personality and determination are on full display three times a week as his jovial spirit fills the room at Genesis Rehab. As he pushes through his rehabilitation exercises, Denzel can be heard picking on his therapists Holman and Michael Gates with affectionate nicknames.

And as Denzel stands and walks across the room unaided, it harkens the thoughts of all his caretakers back to when he began his physical therapy in May.

“He had been bed bound since January. He had not stood on his feet since the accident. It was a struggle just to get him up here, because sitting him up in a chair and putting him in a vehicle to move him up here, you don’t realize it but the motion of that vehicle for someone who has been stationary, that makes them sick,” Holman said. “The very first day he was here he said, ‘I want to walk.’ So I looked at Mike and said, ‘Let’s give it a try.’ He stood and took four steps the first day he was here. He had a lot of help, but those four steps, he might as well have walked around the block because it was such an encouragement for him, such an encouragement for his mom. When he was in the hospital, they told her he’d never get out of bed. They told her he’d never communicate. He’d never do anything. This is a miracle. What he’s doing is no credit to anybody but Denzel and the Lord.”

Robinson-8984“When we came out here, he was in a wheelchair. Mike and Skibo and everybody, they’ve been just working with him,” Emma recalled. “They just started gradually lifting him up, moving him around and he’s been doing great ever since. I knew he would make progress, but not this fast. It does wonders. I’m just full. I never thought he would progress this much. Everybody that sent out prayers, I thank them. Everybody that came and visited and sent out cards, I thank them. Without them, I couldn’t have did it by myself.”

As Denzel continues to progress, his ambition continues to grow with his rediscovered abilities. His gait remains slow and choppy for now, but Denzel has every intention of reclaiming the ability to enjoy the activities he has long loved.

“Play football, baseball, soccer and all sports. Play sports,” Denzel said of his goals as he worked with Gates on his daily exercises. “Fixing to be 100 percent.”

“All the medical thought behind his injury, all of his chart notes from doctors, he was never expected to be out of bed. He has exceeded those 1,000 percent,” Holman said. “Our first real goal was just to get him where he could go to school. That passed quickly. Then we realized he was ready to go, he was ready to do some stuff. We try to work to stimulate him during the day. We’re actually trying to come up with a program that uses the Wii to try to stimulate him at school, so he’s going to get therapy almost four or five hours a day.”

Robinson-9005Denzel has made great strides, but he still has considerable obstacles to overcome. Namely, he struggles with a severely limited field of vision that stands as the greatest impediment to his progress.

“He still has severe damage to the occipital lobe of his brain. He had severe brain damage. He can’t see very good. I would say that’s his biggest limitation right now,” Holman said. “He can see 20/20, but it’s only five percent of his field of view. So he’s got a little pie slice of vision and that is probably his biggest limitation. If he could see, he would be almost back to Denzel. There’s some balance deficits. There’s some coordination deficits. But a lot of that is just that he can’t see so he’s scared he’s going to run into something.”

But with every step, Denzel’s confidence grows. And with that, his gait gradually steadies. And as he stands to walk out of therapy and to the truck driven by his uncle, Willie Clayton, Denzel moves a step closer to another goal.

“He told me he wants to donate his wheelchair when he doesn’t need it anymore,” Clayton said. “What is so impressive is he is thinking about everybody else.”

“He has the ambition to want to walk and talk and do for himself,” Emma said of her son. “He pushes himself and I push him, so we push each other.”