Name : Jennifer Kovalich, Enterprise staff writer
BROCKTON - The first time Shaylin Beckman saw her son, James, he was six weeks old.
The 18-year-old Brockton resident had spent nearly a month in a coma at Boston Medical Center after after suffering a severe brain injury in a May 2005 car accident.
She was eight months pregnant at the time of the crash. Doctors delivered James through an emergency Cesarean section.
Beckman first met her son in June while she recuperated at the HealthSouth Braintree Rehabilitation Hospital.
“I didn’t believe he was mine at first. I didn’t realize he was mine until I got home,” she said.
On Saturday, about 60 guests will gather at the Beckman home on Christopher Road to celebrate James’ first birthday, which is May 9.
Linda Beckman, Shaylin’s mother, said that given Shaylin’s serious injuries and her grandson’s dramatic entrance into the world under such traumatic circumstances, doctors consider both “walking miracles.”
“For the longest time we didn’t think she’d come home,” Linda Beckman said.
On May 9, 2005, Shaylin was the front-seat passenger in a purple Plymouth Breeze. She was just days away from graduation, on her way to Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School in Easton with three friends.
Around 7:15 a.m. that morning, the car collided with a First Student bus carrying 17 Cardinal Spellman High School students. The Plymouth ended up wedged underneath the bus to the car’s windshield, police said then.
“There are a number of injuries in that accident in both vehicles,” personal injury attorney Mark Petti, who represents Shaylin and two other passengers who were hurt, said Wednesday.
At the time of the crash, police said that drizzle and speed might have contributed to the accident but were investigating further. The attorney said Wednesday he is awaiting a police report on the accident reconstruction.
Now, the petite young mother is blind in her left eye and has lost the peripheral vision in her right eye. She is at risk for seizures.
“She does have a long road to go, but it’s a road full of hope,” Petti said.
Shaylin will never drive a car but is planning on returning to work as a licensed practical nurse at the Life Care Center in West Bridgewater next month. In the fall, she hopes to enroll in a nursing program at the Technical Institute at Southeastern.
“She’ll make a very good nurse because she’ll have empathy,” said Kim Chagnon, a nurse practitioner in the Department of Neurosurgery at Boston Medical Center. “When she says to a family, ‘I know how you feel,’ she really will.”
Linda Beckman brought baby James home from the hospital about 10 days after he was born. With friends helping her care for the newborn at home, she was going to Boston Medical Center twice a day to be with her daughter.
“The first month is like a fog,” she said.
The community’s generosity poured out to the family. Linda’s friends and former co-workers at the Arnone School, as well as strangers, dropped off baby gifts, food, even money.
One gift given by strangers was a converter crib for James from the parents of a Halifax man who died in 2003 at age 21 in a car crash, shortly before his own child was born.
After Shaylin returned home from a month at the Braintree rehabilitation hospital, the First Evangelical Church, where the family worships, hosted a surprise shower for her.
“We didn’t have to buy diapers for about seven months,” Linda said.
At nearly 1, James has wavy, light brown hair and enormous dark eyes. He is a fast crawler and loves the PBS show “Dragon Tales.” His “best friend” is the family’s cat, Lucky, but James goes nowhere without a gray stuffed animal named “Mr. Bear.”
Linda Beckman said her grandson’s development has proceeded normally but he has several allergies, including milk, soy and whey, and is on a special formula.
“They had a late bonding but now they’re together like glue,” Linda Beckman said of mother and son.
The teenager is also getting somewhat of a social life back, going to under-21 clubs and the mall with friends, as well as playing bingo with her mother and grandmother at church.
But her mother says she gets nervous anytime Shaylin goes out in a car with friends. “It’s like I have to let her grow up all over again,” she said.
Almost a year after her life changed dramatically, Shaylin said she feels lucky to be alive.
“She’s an amazing kid. She doesn’t give up,” her mother said. “She doesn’t let anything bother her. She’s very determined.”