When a baby is born, parents have only one wish and that wish is for their beautiful new baby to be born as healthy as ever. Most parents count the number of fingers and toes minutes after birth and count their blessings. Eileen and Robert Deegan, of Jersey City, were overjoyed when they welcomed their new son Bobby into the world on January 26, 2003. Bobby was born very prematurely at only 28 weeks.
It wasn’t until Bobby was a little more than a year old when his mother, Eileen, started to realize that something was off. Bobby was fascinated by trains and to this day holds an incredible amount of knowledge about them. Trains weren’t all he was obsessed with; he enjoyed watching fans spin and seeing water be flushed down a toilet. Eileen started to notice the frequent flapping of the hands, further adding to the list of quirky behavior. She also pointed out that Bobby was delayed with walking and had a difficult time speaking. In fact, Bobby didn’t start to speak until he was three years old. While her son was a very “social” baby, always smiling and waving at people, he also had much social awkwardness about him. It would take him a very long time to warm up to people that 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, while most mothers return to work before their baby’s first birthday, Eileen stayed at home with Bobby for two years. When he was a little more two and a half, Eileen enrolled him in a program based in Hudson County for people with developmental disabilities.
At the age of four, Eileen and her 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 starting to fall into place, Bobby experienced a near fatal setback. In June 2011, Bobby suffered a seizure and was rushed to Christ Hospital in Jersey City. After an initial evaluation, doctors concluded that Bobby would need to be transferred to Newark Beth Israel in Newark to receive emergency brain surgery. After the surgery Bobby was in a coma for five weeks. It was necessary that Bobby be placed on a ventilator and receive his nutrition through a feeding tube. Just as all hope had seemed lost, Bobby awoke from his coma but in a far worse condition than before. All the progress he was making with his asperger’s had been 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 their nine year old son reverted back to his old behaviors from the time he was two.
The intensive care unit at Newark Beth Israel suggested to Eileen and her family that they take Bobby to PSE&G’s Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick for their outstanding inpatient rehabilitation program and state of the art facilities. Already being familiar with Children’s Specialized Hospital, Eileen had no qualms about bringing Bobby there for treatment. 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 there treated her like family. She recalled a time when she was in line at the cafeteria and Amy Mansue, President and CEO, insisted she go in front of her in line so she could get back to Bobby that much faster. Standing in line with the hospital’s President behind her, 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 total 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 that much easier. As weeks passed and more progress was made, Bobby 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 on the front porch in addition to his grandparents coming over to visit. The first thing he did when home was walk right into his bedroom to make sure his room was the same and that no one had touched his trains or Hess Trucks. He received many phone calls throughout the day from friends and family. Bobby wanted to go to see his Path Trains right away, but was told he had to rest before he did any of that.
That September he returned to school with a classroom aid and thanks to a special social skills class, offered at Children’s Specialized, Bobby was able to leave Eileen without any fuss and make it through a full school day without any issues. Through Children’s Specialized, Bobby has started to take swim classes offered at the Scotch Plains Y with the help of his mother who has to go in the water with him.
The Deegan’s only son, Bobby, never gave up despite his setbacks. Diagnosed with Aspergers at the age of four and having a serious brain injury at only nine years old, Bobby 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. As of May 3, Bobby will be seeing a neuro psychologist when they move to Mountainside.
“There is no doubt he is a stronger kid after leaving New Brunswick,” his mother 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.”