Summer break for Willi Bosch, like any other 15-year-old at Hill-Murray High School, will be winding down in about six weeks.
He's fine with that though.
"School's not that bad," the sophomore from Little Canada told BringMeTheNews Friday.
A year ago, Bosch's family and friends didn't know if they'd ever see him in school again.
Bosch was on a hospital bed, in a coma, fighting for his life after crashing while on his longboard without a helmet.
"I was told he might not make it," his mother, Mary Barsness, told BringMeTheNews Friday. "We start with, 'He might not survive this,' to 'If he does, he’s probably going to be paralyzed and cognitively impaired.'"
Yet here he is, almost exactly one year later, enjoying the final weeks of summer break and working with a personal trainer while looking toward the future.
"I keep telling people this week, it’s very hard for my mind to reconcile where we were a year ago with where we are now" she said. "It’s still such a factor in our every day life, but on the flip side, our lives are so normal. And during that time it just didn’t seem possible that it would be this normal."
Now, she's determined to help prevent other families from going through their past 12 months through her No Helmet No Ride program.
"There’s a lot we can’t avoid," she said. "This is super avoidable. We don’t have to be here."
Bosch's accident happened on the night of July 7. He was alone, longboarding in Roseville and without a helmet, when he lost control and fell.
He managed to get back home but his father, Gerald Bosch, was worried and took him to the hospital. He eventually landed at the Regions Hospital and Gillette Children's pediatric trauma center, where doctors discovered a skull fracture and bleeding in his brain.
The conversation was “pretty grim,” Barsness said at the time.
She and other family members' posts on CaringBridge detail the daily ups and downs, but 10 trying days after the accident, Bosch suddenly became alert.
"Boom. Just like that," Bosch's father wrote at the time.
Bosch doesn't remember much in the days, or even few months, after the crash. But since late September or early October it's been slow, steady progress, working through rehab with Gillette Children's and Dr. Mark Gormley Jr. – to the point where he now feels completely "there" again.
"Everything was just kind of over time," Bosch said. "Nothing was really a big step; it was just baby steps."
No Helmet No Ride
Even in the days after the accident, Mary Barsness knew she wanted to use what happened to help others.
In October, she spoke with the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance about creating a program where she could go to schools and share Willi's story.
“There isn’t another organization that’s addressing this specifically," she said. "I feel like we’re really good about bikes and bike helmets, and we’re really good about little kids ... but we get to the middle school and high school age and we sort of lose some of that power.”
Since then she's been lining everything up, and is hoping to start doing presentations – in classrooms or as a school assembly – this fall.
Bosch says he doesn't mind his story being out there as a learning tool, saying: "I feel like since it happened, we should talk about it, tell other people so it doesn’t happen to them."
Barsness sees it as a way to have a conversation with the kids through a story they can connect with.
"Willi’s story resonated with a lot of people," she said. "A Monday night, an evening in the neighborhood and bam, everything is different."
Of course, things could have turned out much differently. And Barsness realizes that.
"Especially with a brain injury, you don’t know how much of that person’s personality is coming back with him," she said. "I mean all of it was scary, but even once we were clear he was ambulatory and was responding, I still didn’t know if I’d have my son. I knew I would have a person, but I didn’t know who that person would be.
"And I got my son back. Which was beyond my wildest dreams at that point."
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