Once in a coma, Pennsville athlete continues 'miracle' recovery
The doctors and nurses, the specialists and therapists, they knew their stuff. They just didn't know Kyle. Not the way his family knows Kyle. Not the way his friends know Kyle. Not the way his former football coach at Pennsville High School knows Kyle.
The doctors and nurses, the specialists and therapists, they knew their stuff.
They just didn't know Kyle.
Not the way his family knows Kyle. Not the way his friends know Kyle. Not the way his former football coach at Pennsville High School knows Kyle.
"Amazed, yes. Surprised, no," Pennsville coach Ryan Wood said of his reaction to the remarkable recovery made by his former star wide receiver, Kyle Pszenny, in the one year since he was struck by an automobile while riding his skateboard. "He's built to come back from this. Not everybody is. But this kid is."
Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of the accident in which Pszenny suffered what doctors told his mother, Crystal Parks, was a "devastating, severe brain injury."
Now the medical professionals are telling her something else.
"Dr. [Michael] Sugarman, his neurosurgeon, can't believe it," Parks said. "Nobody can believe it. Dr. Sugarman said, 'Kyle, you're a miracle boy.' "
Sitting in his wheelchair in his family's kitchen on Monday night, Pszenny smiled at a reporter and photographer and declared himself to be "the man, the myth, and the legend."
Parks and her husband, Larry, as well as Parks' other sons, Matt, 20; twins Nick and Nathan, 11; and Patrick, 8 - "Patty-cakes," to Kyle - are used to Kyle's mischievous sense of humor.
So are his best buddies from high school, the ones who dedicated the South Jersey Group 1 football championship to him, the ones who placed the trophy in his lap on that unforgettable December day at Rowan University.
"He's still Kyle," said Jeremy Boucher, one of Pszenny's closest friends. "He still jokes around. He still always is laughing and kidding around."
Said Matt Widmaier, another of Pszenny's best friends: "Once he started laughing and joking around, that's when I knew: Kyle's back."
Park said doctors offered no prognosis for Kyle after the accident. But she also said, "He should have been dead."
Pszenny suffered a dislocated neck as well as multiple fractures. Police recovered his skateboard in four pieces on Hook Road, where he was riding it at about 1:45 a.m. on his way to his friend Josh Van Blarcom's home.
Pszenny was in a coma for three weeks and spent more than five months in the hospital. He underwent several surgeries to relieve pressure on his brain. He didn't open his eyes for an extended period or speak again until the middle of December.
"First words I said, 'Mom, I love you,' " Pszenny said Monday night.
Widmaier said Pszenny is "by far" the most popular student in Pennsville's senior class.
Boucher said "everybody loves Kyle" because his outgoing personality, generosity of spirit, and sense of humor.
"That's what I prayed for - that his personality would still be there," Parks said. "I knew the first time he spoke. I knew it was him. I could see it in his eyes."
Parks said that sometimes at the end of a long day, she and her husband will be tired and she will ask her son, "Kyle, can you just go to sleep?"
"Mom, I slept for six months. Isn't that enough?"
Pszenny still uses his wheelchair - with "KyleStrong #7" (his uniform number) stitched on the back rest - but has begun to take some steps with the help of a walker. He has been back at school since Feb. 29, engaging in therapy and doing some schoolwork as well.
When company arrived Monday night, he was doing his math homework on the tray of his wheelchair.
"I get chills just thinking about it," Wood said. "It would be foolish to say you're not amazed. None of us knew how things would go.
"But if you knew this kid, you would be so excited for him."
Pszenny attended Pennsville's prom on May 26. He wore a silver tuxedo and was named prom king.
"I had a blast," Pszenny said.
His date was Megan Pucalowski, an old friend from his neighborhood in the tight-knit little town on the Delaware River in Salem County.
"We always used to say they were going to get married," Parks said. "Maybe someday, Kyle."
Pszenny didn't skip a beat.
"If she comes to her senses," Pszenny said, "and gets with this sexy beast."
Pszenny will participate in Pennsville's graduation ceremonies on June 14. He will return to the high school in September to repeat his senior year.
Pszenny said he hopes to attend the University of Connecticut and study to become a dentist.
As she stood on the ramp outside her home, Parks' eyes filled with tears when she considered that it was one year ago in the middle of the night when her cellphone rang with terrifying news.
"He's a miracle," Parks said of her son. "Everybody says it. He's a miracle."