April 18, 2014

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Avon Lake boy on way to recovery after car hit him

AVON LAKE — Chris Venesile talked about a 9-year-old girl from Salem who was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver about the same time his son Noah was critically injured when struck by a car last week.

“We have a lot to be thankful for,” Venesile said Monday. “He’s still with us. That family does not have that opportunity.”

The third-grader who attends Westview Elementary School showed some positive signs this past weekend when MetroHealth Medical Center  doctors opted to partially bring him out of a sedated state he has been in since Nov. 6, the day he was struck by a driver after chasing a soccer ball into the street.

Doctors decided to stop Noah’s sedation to awaken him for two hours from about 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday, according to Venesile.

“They wanted to bring him out of the sedation and see if he could establish some type of neurological response,” Venesile said.

Noah moved his arms and legs and opened one eye, and tried to respond to verbal commands by squeezing a finger and giving a thumbs-up sign.

But he began to feel distressed when a breathing tube was removed, and “thrashed his legs and moved his arms (which were restrained), no doubt trying to reach up and remove the tube,” Venesile, a musical education professor at Kent State University, wrote in a Facebook post Sunday.

The problem stemmed from one of the boy’s vocal chords, which remained closed.

“It was like an obstruction in his upper airway,” Venesile said Monday from the hospital. “He was struggling with that. The doctors decided to re-sedate him and put the tube back in.”

Still, doctors were pleased with Noah’s responses, his father said, and will try again today to remove the tube.

“They want to get that upper airway problem resolved,” Venesile said.

The boy’s doctors are also encouraged by the fact they did not witness any “high levels of pressure or swelling” on Noah’s brain within the first 72 hours following the noontime accident. That positive sign led to a pressure monitor being removed from Noah’s head, according to his father.

“He has had a touch of pneumonia but that’s not uncommon,” Venesile said. “They’re working on that and looking at his other injuries,” which include a leg fracture and multiple fractures around one of his eye sockets.

“Once he’s out of sedation, they want to continue to get more positive signs,” Venesile said. “That’s most important.”

The boy’s classmates at Westview Elementary have made get-well cards that have been sent to MetroHealth to be read by his parents, Chris and Amy.

“His parents have read those cards to him and even under sedation he seems to have responded,” Principal Paul Holland said. “This has been nice for our kids to know they are having a positive effect when they feel so helpless.”

Teachers and other staff members have donated money that may end up buying gift cards for restaurants, as well as for the hospital food court and parking garage.

“If the family is going to be there for the next three weeks, those things become more practical,” Holland said. “We’re not sure yet where that kind of thing (donations) should go.”

Noah’s school may also take a hand in setting up a local bank account to benefit the family.

“There’s been talk of setting up a fund, but we haven’t moved on that as we do not know what necessities they may need,” Holland said. “The support is out there. People want to help.”

Holland described Noah as a very well-liked boy.

“He’s one of those model students who is very helpful and a good role model,” Holland said. “He’s thoughtful and kind. He’s the real deal.”

Avon Lake police continue their investigation into the accident, according to Lt. Duane Streator.

Noah was struck by a car driven by a 53-year-old Avon Lake woman who has not been charged. Police remain uncertain whether the woman saw the boy before she hit him, Streator said.

Noah’s parents have been staying at MetroHealth in Cleveland around the clock since the accident.

“A lot of good can come out of a tragedy like this,” Venesile said of the community’s rallying around the family, which includes an older brother, Nathan, 19, a student at the University of Cincinnati, and two sisters, Paige, 17, and Sydney, 16, both students and varsity cheerleaders at Avon Lake High School.

“We have busy lives and they continue to go on,” Chris Venesile said.

As for himself, Venesile, who is in his 50s, is convinced he can handle this very stressful period far better than if “I was 32 or 42.”

Venesile also expressed gratitude to his employers at Kent State.

“They have been wonderful to me through all of this. The people have been very understanding.”

As for Noah?

“He’s still with us,” Venesile said. “The doctors say time is on his side. He’s young and resilient. We have hope.”

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.