Northeast's Bull beats coma, returns to lacrosse field

April 11, 1994|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Sun Staff Writer

Always, the lacrosse stick was there. When he was in the rehabilitation center in Wilmington, Del., still almost totally paralyzed, the lacrosse stick was there.

Lying in bed, Steve Bull held the stick, vowing even then he would resume his lacrosse career at Northeast.

"I always thought I could play again," Bull said. "I didn't care what anybody said. I was determined."

Bull is indeed playing lacrosse again, as a senior midfielder on the Northeast team that opened its season last week. Although not quite the player he was before the car accident, Bull is good enough, coach Kevin Buckley says, to play on the first or second midfield.

Last June 2, en route to Ocean City in his jeep, Bull, the driver, and three friends were injured in an accident in Salisbury. His cousin Tommy Tucker needed 49 stitches after being thrown from the jeep; Jeremiah David needed nine in his head; Dusty Bierner had a broken collarbone.

Bull broke his right hand, tore knee ligaments and suffered a head injury so severe he was in a coma for three weeks.

"A car came from a side road through a flashing red light and then, realizing he shouldn't have, stopped in the middle of the road," Bull said. "We were approaching a flashing yellow light and swerved to avoid him, but the jeep flipped."

At one point, Bull stopped breathing and lost his pulse. In the days immediately after the accident, Bull's mother, Debbie, brought friends to the Salisbury hospital in the belief they could talk him out of the coma.

Finally, she brought Chuck Yocum, a Northeast teacher who had Bull in special education classes and coached him in football.

"Mrs. Bull wanted to go with the person Steve most admired," Buckley said.

When Yocum yelled at Bull to get up, the boy's eye finally moved.

"That was Steve's first step in coming out of the coma," Buckley said. "His mother says that aside from the doctors, Chuck had the most influence in helping Steve out of it."

Moved to the rehab center in Wilmington, Bull began to regain his faculties. His initial therapy, or mobility lesson, was with the lacrosse stick, cradling it.

It was a slow process. By early November, he could barely speak, but in mid-December he returned to school, after being taught at home for several months, and took three classes. In January, he resumed a full course load in special education and showed up unexpectedly at Buckley's lacrosse meeting.

"I never thought he'd play," Buckley said. "I figured maybe I could use him as the team manager.

"But the doctors gave him clearance to play, saying there was no risk of re-injury. Even then, I couldn't see him playing much. Now I realize he will. He'll be a contributor.

"His speed and coordination aren't quite there yet. But he's fast enough because he was one of our fastest before the accident."

In one lacrosse sense, Bull is more adept. Because his right hand was in a cast during rehabilitation last fall, he was forced to handle the stick with his left. Today he can shoot and pass with either hand.

In class, Bull is struggling with reading and spelling, as an aftereffect of the accident. He knows he must improve his verbal skills if he is to realize his goal. He wants to become a postal inspector.

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