On July 9, 2018, 13-year-old Giovanni Manarite-Diaz was riding his bike on his way to go fishing when he was struck by a car. His mom, Christina Manarite, remembers getting the call about the accident and rushing to the scene a few minutes later to see police working on her son. “Everything was happening so fast,” said Manarite. “I remember seeing the smashed windshield of the car and thinking how did this happen?”
Giovanni was transported to the Pediatric Trauma Center at Salah Foundation Children’s Hospital in Fort Lauderdale. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and CAT scans showed a subdural hematoma and significant swelling of the brain. Giovanni was rushed directly to surgery.
“It was a dangerous situation and considered a maximally severe head injury,” said Broward Health Medical Center adult/pediatric neurosurgeon, Randell Powell, M.D. With Dr. Powell as the lead surgeon, the pediatric trauma team performed a surgery called a hemicraniectomy. “In order to remove blood clots and reduce life-threatening swelling, we had to take out half his skull. By taking out the bone and leaving the wound open, the swelling reduced.”
Almost three weeks later Giovanni would have a second successful surgery to put the bone back in his skull. Giovanni then would spend almost eight weeks in the Level 1 Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Giovanni’s treatment included a multidisciplinary team approach consisting of pediatric trauma and intensive care physicians, pediatric therapists, pharmacy, case management, nutrition, social work, and psychology. This team worked together to ensure he received fully comprehensive care
“I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work together with,” said Manarite. “They worked with him and they worked with me.” She would spend every night at her son’s bedside and recalls the compassionate care that the medical staff would show her son.
“He was not just another patient, they truly cared for my son. That level of care made us feel extra special. It was all the little things that made it a better experience.”
One year later and now 14 years old, Giovanni is in a motorized wheelchair and still has paralysis on one side of his body. “It is a long road to recovery and we have had setbacks but he is learning to adapt to this new way of life,” said Manarite.
Giovanni sees Dr. Powell every three months for monitoring and does weekly physical, speech, and occupational therapy at an outside facility.
“The younger patients can tolerate these severe injuries much better than adults do,” said Dr. Powell. “He can lead a full life.” Powell believes that with rehabilitation it is realistic for Giovanni to one day take steps and walk again.
Until that time Giovanni is back doing his favorite pastime – fishing with his friends and family. Whether it’s about catching bass in a nearby fishing spot or talking about going into 9th grade, Giovanni is happy and hopeful about what lies ahead.