Community comes to aid of injured girl

NEIGHBORS

January 20, 2000|By Joni Guhne | Joni Guhne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

BETH TRIBULL of Cape St. Claire remembers what a friend said to her last spring, during the dark days after her little girl's accident: "Sometimes when a door is shut, if you spend too much time looking at the closed door, you miss the open door."

The accident that abruptly closed many doors for Beth and Eddie Tribull happened on a bright spring afternoon April 26. Their 7-year-old daughter, Shelby, was riding her bike when she stopped in the street to fix her shoe. The driver of an approaching van didn't see the child until it was too late.

Shelby suffered traumatic brain injury that left her unable to sit up without assistance or to speak.

Until the accident, life with two precocious daughters -- Shelby and her 6-year-old sister, Jenna -- had been idyllic for the young parents, still in their early 30s.

Shelby was a top second-grade student at Cape St. Claire Elementary, accustomed to winning beauty pageants and school science fairs. Among her awards was a governor's citation for community service.

Focusing on the open door, Beth Tribull says, "The positive side of this is that so many wonderful people have come into our lives."

The family feels indebted to many people, among them pediatric nurse Jennean Conti, who happened to be driving behind the van that struck Shelby. She called for a rescue helicopter and gave the child mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until help arrived.

Beth Tribull believes Conti saved Shelby's life.

Others are playing critical roles in Shelby's recovery: Anne Arundel Medical Center physical therapists Debbie Collins, Kathy Mahon and Suellen Wilson, occupational therapist Rita Patterson and massage therapist Betty Brandemart.

Shelby spends six hours each week with her tutor, Nedra Gane, an expert in traumatic brain injury. The Tribulls are optimistic that Shelby will be ready to return to public school in the fall.

One organization stands alone in giving help to the family: Severna Park Elks Lodge 2482. "I can't thank them enough," says Beth Tribull.

Members take their organization's official name -- the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks -- seriously, and they act like family. Members are called "brothers," though women are among the 412 members, in addition to the Ladies of the Elks, the lodge's women's auxiliary.

Organized in 1972, the Elks built their lodge on Truck House Road in Severna Park in 1983. The main hall, lounge, two complete kitchens and an outdoor pavilion provide space for the membership and the community.

"The basement is filled with wheelchairs and crutches that we loan to anyone who needs them," says the lodge's Exalted Ruler Robert Bingham.

Among its many community projects, the lodge sponsors middle-school dances on Friday nights where young teens practice their social graces in the safety of an environment free of smoking, drugs and alcohol. Sunday nights are set aside for single adults.

When parents of seniors at Severna Park High School were looking for a place to hold an after-prom breakfast, the Elks volunteered, and for nine years they've played host to a safe celebration for grads and their dates.

When an individual or family such as the Tribulls needs help, the lodge lives up to its name.

The Elks have delivered food baskets to the Tribulls and entertained Jenna while her mother cared for Shelby.

Rehabilitation insurance coverage is limited, but Shelby has years of therapy ahead. So the Severna Park Elks had a benefit casino night Dec. 4, and the response from other Maryland lodges was immediate.

Checks for hundreds of dollars arrived from lodges in Deale, Salisbury and Broadneck. With additional help from the business community, the lodge was able to raise more than $15,400 toward the Tribulls' medical expenses.

The money was presented to the family Friday at a lodge dinner for the Tribulls.

"Mrs. Tribull asked what she could do for the Elks in appreciation for what we've done," Esteemed Leading Knight Robert Barnes told the large crowd, "but I told her it was our pleasure."

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