Highlands student selling bracelets to help pay uncle's medical costs

| Friday, April 19, 2013, 1:46 a.m.

When Brett Campbell's uncle suffered a head injury in a fall from a ladder, the Fawn teenager launched a fundraising effort that has raised $500.

Brett, 14, a student at Highlands Middle School, has made and sold about 500 button bracelets to help pay for her uncle Jeff Grossman's medical bills and physical therapy as he recovers from a traumatic brain injury.

“Whenever I can, I'm making bracelets because I love my uncle and it's terrible to see them go through this,” Brett said. “I figure I might as well help because I'll have plenty of free time to do things when I'm older.”

Brett said she came up with the idea after her mom talked about her uncle's injuries and how expensive treatment would be.

“People started to see them around school,” Brett said of the button bracelets, “and kids wanted more. …(A)ll of sudden, I started getting orders. I was amazed.”

She sells the bracelets — an elastic band with sewn-on buttons — for $5 to $7.

The Grossmans have health insurance, but their deductible is out of pocket, and their policy runs May to May.

“So I have to start all over again next month,” said Jeff's wife, Stacy Grossman, 43, of Clinton Township. “He's self-employed and we have a new home. It's been awful.”

They estimate expenses will be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

‘Phenomenal' progress

It's been a difficult journey and Grossman, 43, still has months of recovery ahead. But he's made significant progress, said his neurosurgeon, Dr. David Okonkwo, clinical director of UPMC Presbyterian hospital's Brain Trauma Research Center.

Grossman, a self-employed contractor, was injured Feb. 6 when a step-ladder gave out from under him while he was working on the window of a home in Murrysville.

He sustained nine broken ribs and minor fractures in his spine.

By far, the most serious injury was a large blood clot inside his skull.

Doctors removed half of his skull for surgery and then kept it off due to brain swelling. Last week, doctors replaced the piece of skull.

Grossman is now at home and can do all the activities of daily living without assistance.

He's an outpatient at HealthSouth Harmar Rehabilitation Hospital and continues to regain his cognitive function.

Okonkwo said Grossman's recovery is not unprecedented but, based on the type of injury, the likelihood of his recovering enough to lead a meaningful life was under 30 percent, he said.

Had Grossman not received treatment within two hours, he would have died from the clot, Okonkwo said.

“Even with treatment, there is still a substantial risk of death or permanent disability, including vegetative state,” Okonkwo said. “Against that backdrop, his current clinical condition is phenomenal.

“He has, in a relatively short period of time,experienced tremendous recovery and has returned home. … (He) is back to cracking jokes on a minute-to-minute basis, which is what everybody wants to see.”

Stacy Grossman said her husband's resolve has helped him through the initial injury and subsequent setbacks of pneumonia and fluid on the outside of his lungs.

“He's been very positive and very determined,” she said.

A ‘caring' niece

Brett Campbell's mother, Marsha, said her daughter has spent nearly all of her free time after school and band practice by making the bracelets.

The teen plans to have 30 to 50 bracelets to sell at a spaghetti dinner fundraiser this Sunday at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Jefferson Township.

“I think it's awesome. I'm so proud of her,” she said. “With all the negative things that are going on, you have a 14-year-old girl whose heart is in the right place.”

The Grossmans are touched by their niece's generosity.

“She's very caring,” Stacy Grossman said. “She made a donation jar for Sunday and put the first dollar in it.”

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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