Miracle kid will walk out at Oriole Park

DAN RODRICKS

May 08, 1993|By DAN RODRICKS

Talk to Ken Crawford, one of the doctors who saved Michael Patterson's life, and he'll tell you this: "I can't imagine anyone being as close to death as he was. He was right on the edge."

"Right on the edge," concurs Geoff Ling, the neurologist on duty at Johns Hopkins Hospital the night Michael came in.

Talk to the kid's father, Ted Patterson, and he'll recall what an emergency room doctor told him early in the evening of his son's trauma: "There is nothing we can do." He'll quote the nurse who said: "The hearing is the last thing to go so, if you want to say goodbye. . . ."

That kind of testimony has led plenty of people familiar with this story to conclude that, if miracles walk among us, Michael Patterson surely must be one of them.

His baseball coach at Towson High, Bill Yosca, sees the kid today, remembers how he looked a year ago, and regards the recovery as stunning.

"I use as a barometer of his recovery his personality," Yosca said. "When I saw him last year -- I guess it was March '92, at the hospital -- he couldn't feed himself, he could barely speak. I wasn't sure he knew who I was. I asked if he knew my name, and he whispered, 'Coach Yosca.' I came out of there feeling like . . . I got three kids of my own, you know, and I was counting my blessings.

"So now I see him, playing baseball, trying to throw with a right arm that hasn't quite come around. He doesn't start for us, but he's played a few innings. We use him as a pinch runner, he warms up the outfielders, he coaches first base. A more positive kid than him they don't come. His sense of humor is back. His personality is back. He's back. Incredible."

And Monday night Michael gets to play Oriole Park, sort of. More on that in a minute.

For now, we go back to Jan. 28, 1992.

Around dusk, Michael, then 16, suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. By the time Ken Crawford attended to him in the emergency room at St. Joseph Hospital, Michael was comatose. His pupils were dilated and fixed. His respiration was down to three breaths per minute -- what doctors call "end-stage respiration" -- and his skull was filling with blood, pushing his brain down to the base of the cranial vault. His arms were contorted. His body was running low on oxygen, high on carbon dioxide.

Ted Patterson, the veteran sportscaster at WPOC-FM, and his wife were shocked. Just an hour or so earlier, their son, a gifted-and-talented sophomore at Towson High, had been shooting some hoops near his home. Then he was complaining of a headache -- "The first I ever had in my life," Michael said. Then he was passing out. Then having seizures. Then being put into an ambulance and taken to St. Joe. And soon Ted Patterson heard it suggested that he and his wife say goodbye. A priest administered last rites.

Yet, as grim as it all seemed to Ted Patterson and his wife, Diana, an extraordinary effort would be made to save their son's life -- to pull him back from the edge.

First, Crawford, an anesthesiologist, was summoned to St. Joe's emergency room to try to keep Michael alive while he was being prepared for a move to Hopkins Hospital, with its unit specializing in neurological emergencies.

Among other things, Crawford had to control the amount of blood flowing to Michael's brain without killing him. "Enough blood to keep the brain alive but not any more than that," Crawford said. "I had to increase the amount of oxygen he was getting and lower the carbon dioxide. . . . It was sort of like pushing someone up on a fence, just enough to get them there, but not having them fall off the other way. A balancing act. . . . This was certainly one of the worst cases I ever had."

After Michael left St. Joe, Crawford still thought the boy was going to die. "If you go according to the stats [for similar cases], he should not have survived," Crawford said. "I had to take pause." Which is a doctor's way of saying he went off to a quiet room in the hospital and cried heartily.

It turns out that Crawford's efforts bought Michael some time. At Hopkins, doctors in the neuro-critical care unit did what Crawford had already done -- and more -- and even more aggressively. A team of Hopkins neurosurgeons and neurologists -- Ling, Marek Mirski, Mark Schnitzer, Reid Thompson -- protected Michael's brain through a critical period, until the swelling in his skull had been sufficiently reduced.

The kid was unconscious for several days, in intensive care a month. In March, he was transferred to Sinai Hospital, where he underwent rehabilitative therapy and relearned everything -- from walking to eating.

By mid-May, he was home again.

By January, he was back in school at Towson High. By spring, he had As and Bs on his report card and a spot on the varsity baseball team. And come Monday night, he'll be on the field at Camden Yards, and the Orioles will have him throw out the first ball to start the game against the Red Sox. I hope he smokes it.

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