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11-29-02: One step at a time
The Daily Standard
    Standing doesn't seem like such a big feat unless you haven't done it for nearly 2-1/2 years.
    So with a video camera rolling, Christina Bryan became vertical two months ago, standing on her own two feet. It was the first time she was able to plant her toes flat on the ground since lightning robbed her body of its most critical functions in June 2000.
    "I've got a video of you standing, don't I?" her father, Kent Bryan asked, as he smiled at his daughter.
    Christina Bryan, now 19, smiled back. But she hasn't been all smiles the last two years. After about eight months in area hospitals, she arrived home in time for Christmas 2000, and continued therapy treatments. In order for the young Celina woman to become upright, she had to wear leg and feet braces from March through August this year, to pull the muscles in her calves back where they belong.
    "Her muscles became so tight when she laid so long in a horizontal position that her feet started to point straight out," Christina's mother, Ginny Bryan explained.
    Christina Bryan also underwent a hip surgery a year ago to remove a bone-like mass that had deposited between her leg and pelvic bone. The excess accumulation was causing her considerable pain, which led to frequent wakings in the night.
    With both her feet and hip repaired, Christina Bryan is now able to sleep through the night, and move on to more challenging, therapy including learning to walk again. She recently began taking several dozen steps with minimal support from physical and occupational therapists during sessions three times a week.
    Her nightmare began June 13, 2000, while she was working on the golf course at the Fox's Den in Celina. At the time, she was an honor roll student at the top of her junior class and involved in numerous activities at Celina High School.
    No one saw the lightning bolt strike her down and no one knows exactly how long she lay there unconscious before golfers began cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). She was in cardiac arrest with no pulse when she was found that evening.
    Lightning kills 73 people in the United States each year and injures more than 300, according to the National Weather Service. Victims of lightning strikes suffer a wide array of injuries from burns to loss of brain function from lack of oxygen.
    "There's not much information out there on how to treat victims like Christina who have suffered a direct (lightning) hit," Kent Bryan said. "Most die."
    Doctors are not about to give a long-term diagnosis in a case like Christina's, he said, because they just don't know.
    "Slow and steady, we use those words constantly to describe her overall progress," he added.
    The Bryans agreed once again to be interviewed by The Daily Standard to update those who are curious about their daughter's progress but are afraid to ask, and to give hope to other families who are dealing with critically injured loved ones.
    Speech therapist, Andrea Hawkins of the Community Sports and Therapy Center in Celina, has worked with Christina Bryan for more than a year. Hawkins is teaching her how to eat again, how to turn sounds into words, how to increase memory skills and think through story problems.
    "She loves math, she's very good at it, better than me," Hawkins joked, as Christina Bryan giggled in her chair.
    Ginny Bryan said they use "Thicken Right"  to bring all of Christina's food to a pudding consistency so she can swallow it. She is still on a feeding tube but therapists hope that will not be necessary for too much longer.
    "She has chewing motion, I've seen it several times," Hawkins said proudly.
    Christina Bryan balances herself when sitting up and can raise her arms and legs by herself, but slowly. Her physical therapist, Heidi Lemmerman, is working on range of motion and strengthening the muscles in her tall, slender body.
    "As long as Christina keeps making progress, we're going to keep shooting for whatever she can do," Lemmerman said during a recent session. "Something's healing in there, Ocause she's doing so much more now."
    Everything Christina Bryan does takes time and sometimes she cries out from pure frustration, her mother said. Her brain functions well, it just takes a while for her muscles to get the message and react, Ginny Bryan added.
    The Bryan family is currently trying out a computer program called "Tracker 2000" to help Christina communicate better. A silver dot is placed on her glasses or forehead and through an infrared ray she is able to activate the cursor by moving her head. She is also able to hold a pen and can use it to move the cursor, too.
    Among other things, the computer allows Christina Bryan to retrieve and send e-mails from her friends who are away at college. Her contact with her friends helps keep her focused, her mother said.
    "Her friends just keep coming around," Ginny Bryan said. "They've learned how to take her out in our van. They've taken her to Mariners games, camp fires. It does a lot for Christina's mental state."
    Kent Bryan said people ask him how the family copes with all the changes they've endured the last two years.
    "We're in a routine now," he said. "During Christina's treatment we've seen so many people dealing with tough situations. It's hard to explain, but in the end, you just do it."


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All content copyright 2002
The Standard Printing Company
P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822