Willi Bosch had what his mother calls an "amazing" Friday morning. He was opening his eyes, squeezing his parents' hands and listening to commands from his bed at Regions Hospital in St. Paul.
While it may not sound like much, it was a string of victories for the 14-year-old, who had been entirely sedated for much of the past 72 hours as he recovers from a traumatic brain injury he suffered Monday night after crashing on his longboard – a type of skateboard – without wearing a helmet.
Mary Barsness, his mother, says she’s grateful for the care her son is receiving, but she hopes other young teenagers can learn from what Willi – and his family and friends – are now going through.
"We all watch our neighbor kids fly around without helmets," she tells BringMeTheNews from the hospital Friday. "I don’t want anybody to have the regret that I have."
An 'incredibly strong kid'
Willi, a multisport athlete who is preparing for his freshman year at Hill-Murray High School this fall, was longboarding alone in Roseville Monday night, when he lost control and fell. He had been on the phone with a friend, his mother said, who heard a scream before the call ended.
Willi managed to call another friend and get home by himself, but was clearly disoriented. His father, Gerry Bosch, had a gut feeling things were worse than they appeared, Mary explained. So he took his son to Unity Hospital.
Doctors found bleeding in Willi's brain. He was then transferred to Gillette Children's at Regions Hospital, where his mother says they discovered a skull fracture. He underwent surgery to remove a section of his skull in order to decrease the pressure on his brain.
The post-op conversation was "pretty grim," his mother says, Willi's life on the edge.
Willi, Mary says, is known as one of those kids who is best friends with everyone, and plays on hockey and lacrosse teams. He's got a big smile, a big laugh. So friends have streamed in to show their support.
While she has their attention, Mary says, she wants to make it matter.
“As a mom, you’re constantly telling your kids don’t do this, don’t do that," she says. "I want them to know, putting a helmet on when you get on your bike … they have all sorts of reasons why they don’t need to do it, and they need to know that the one reason they need to do it is bigger than anything they could possibly say to me."
Willi is still in the hospital, and after the 72-hour mark the vital numbers doctors are monitoring look good, Mary explains. And his improvements Friday morning? "Miraculous," she says.
The family – Mary, her husband Mark Barsness; Gerry and his wife Pam Bosch; and Willi's two sisters 6-year-old Angela Barsness and 4-year-old Zoe Bosch – have been using the hashtag #willistrong in in honor of the teenager's strength, as they get ready to celebrate the small victories, while remaining patient and letting the recovery happen on its own time.
"He really is an incredibly strong kid," Mary says.
They're not completely out of the woods – brain injuries can be fickle, unbound to any set schedule. And getting him to the point where he can begin rehab, and doctors can start to understand the damage, could take weeks, maybe months, she explains on CaringBridge. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
But right now, they're on "on a very positive, forward-moving track."
A track Mary hopes other teenagers can avoid having to travel on.
"If you're not willing to put that helmet on, don't go," she says. "That's it."