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Bobby Deegan
When a child is born, parents have only one wish—for their baby to be healthy. Most parents check fingers and toes minutes after birth and count their blessings. Eileen and Robert Deegan, of Jersey City, NJ, were overjoyed when they welcomed Bobby into the world on January 26, 2003. He was born prematurely at 28 weeks.
It wasn’t until Bobby was about a year old when his mother, Eileen, started to realize that something was different. Bobby was fascinated by trains; he enjoyed watching fans spin and water be flushed down a toilet. Eileen started to notice his frequent flapping of the hands. Bobby was also delayed with walking and had a difficult time speaking. In fact, Bobby didn’t start to speak until he was three years old. Although her son was a very “social” baby, always smiling and waving at people, it would take him a long time to warm up to people who were not his parents. He battled high levels of anxiety and it wasn’t uncommon for him to scream and be unruly. Bobby was very attached to his mother, and Eileen stayed at home with him for two years. When he was about two-and-a-half, Eileen enrolled Bobby in a program based in Hudson County for people with developmental disabilities.
At the age of four, Eileen and her husband, Robert, took their son to Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside to be professionally evaluated. The news they received wasn’t the most favorable, but at the same time didn’t come as a surprise. Bobby was diagnosed with Aspergers’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. He began to see Dr. Laveman, a developmental pediatrician, who would prove to be a leading catalyst in Bobby’s treatment. For the next five years Eileen and Robert worked closely with Children’s Specialized Hospital in the treatment of their son.
Just as things were falling into place, Bobby experienced a near fatal setback. In June 2011, he suffered a seizure and was rushed to the hospital; shortly thereafter he had emergency brain surgery. Bobby was in a coma for five weeks and had to be placed on a ventilator, receiving his nutrition through a feeding tube. Just as all hope seemed lost, Bobby awoke from his coma but in a far worse condition than before. All the progress he made with his Asperger’s was erased; he wasn’t able to walk or talk on his own. Eileen described his condition as “having a baby in a big body.” It seemed as if Bobby had reverted to his old behaviors.
The intensive care unit doctors at Newark Beth Israel suggested that Bobby transfer to PSE&G’s Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick. Accompanied by his mother, Bobby would spend the next five weeks in New Brunswick for physical, speech, play, and even pet assisted therapy to lift his spirits. Eileen was overwhelmed with the support she received, and says everyone treated her like family. She recalled being in line at the cafeteria and Amy Mansue, President and CEO, insisted Eileen go in front of her so she could get back to Bobby that much faster. Eileen was awestruck by her actions and said it was nice to see such courtesy from someone who undoubtedly had a million other things to do, but put a stranger’s needs first. The family-centered care that Children’s Specialized Hospital prides itself on never let up, as a Child Life Specialist visited Bobby on a daily basis, and took the time to sit down and talk to Eileen.
“They really knew when to coddle him, and when to ease up and let him do things for himself,” said Mrs. Deegan. Bobby was given a wheelchair to make getting around easier. As weeks passed with more progress, he was slowly returning to his former self, before suffering an acquired brain injury. By the time he was cleared to leave New Brunswick, Bobby showed vast improvements and was fully able to walk, run, and eat on his own. Bobby was welcomed home with balloons and a visit from his grandparents. The first thing he did when home was walk into his bedroom to make sure his room was the same and that no one had touched his trains or Hess Trucks.
That September he returned to school with a classroom aid and thanks to a special social skills class offered at Children’s Specialized Hospital, Bobby was able to leave Eileen without any fuss and make it through a full school day. He even takes swim classes at the Scotch Plains Y with his mom’s help.
Bobby never gave up despite his setbacks. He fought everyday on his road to recovery. Bobby continues to receive physical, occupational, and speech therapy in Bayonne from Ms. Nancy. He is a patient of Dr. Armento and has is seeing Ms. Kristen for Neuro rehab in Fanwood. Bobby is also seeing a neuropsychologist at Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside.
“There is no doubt he is a stronger kid after leaving New Brunswick,” Eileen said. “The level of compassion everyone had was truly unbelievable. It’s hard for me to describe the outstanding professionalism we received during Bobby’s rehabilitation.”
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Jeannie Brooks
Director of Admissions
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