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Family grateful after McCandless boy's recovery from effects of car crash

| Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, 9:01 p.m.
Daniel Laughlin, 4, reads a Leap Reader book in his McCandless home Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. After losing significant hearing in his right ear from a car accident, Daniel has recieved a prosthesis that has brought his hearing almost back to normal.
Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media
Daniel Laughlin, 4, reads a Leap Reader book in his McCandless home Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. After losing significant hearing in his right ear from a car accident, Daniel has recieved a prosthesis that has brought his hearing almost back to normal.
The Laughlin family from left, Leah, 6; father, Jeff; Daniel, 4; and mother Amy play a game of 'Operation' in their McCandless home Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015.
Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media
The Laughlin family from left, Leah, 6; father, Jeff; Daniel, 4; and mother Amy play a game of 'Operation' in their McCandless home Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015.
Daniel Laughlin, 4, plays with figurines with his father Jeff, in their McCandless home Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015.
Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media
Daniel Laughlin, 4, plays with figurines with his father Jeff, in their McCandless home Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015.
These are photos Daniel Laughlin's inner ear before and during surgery to place a prosthesis in to get his hearing back to normal.  At bottom right is a drawing of the titanium prosthesis that was placed in his ear.
Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media
These are photos Daniel Laughlin's inner ear before and during surgery to place a prosthesis in to get his hearing back to normal. At bottom right is a drawing of the titanium prosthesis that was placed in his ear.

Three years after suffering a traumatic brain injury, multiple temporal bone fractures and inner cranial bleeding from a car crash, 4-year-old Daniel Laughlin of McCandless is no worse for the wear.

“It's miraculous,” said Daniel's mother, Amy Laughlin, 35.

“He's really bright, outgoing, social, funny and fun loving. He attends preschool and loves to play any sport he can get his hands and feet on. He's just like any other 4-year-old boy.”

In 2011, SHE had no reason to be this optimistic about her son's future.

During the family's return from a Maryland beach vacation that summer, Daniel was injured in a car crash.

He banged his head on the side of the car seat in which he was riding, his mother said, and the impact caused fractures to Daniel's temporal bone, a thick and hard structure located in the base of the skull that houses many vital structures, including the facial nerve, carotid artery, jugular vein and inner-ear structure.

Daniel was whisked to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh via helicopter, where he spent the next 10 days.

“Two days after his arrival to the hospital, he had 15 seizures over the course of one night,” said Amy, who had suffered facial fractures and contusions.

Daniel was 7 months old.

“We had no idea to what extent the damage was or what it was going to mean. The future was terrifying. We didn't know what his future was going to be like,” she said.

Doctors were able to stop the seizures within a day using medication. The bone fractures helped alleviate pressure from the bleeding, so surgery was not necessary. However, close neurological monitoring and medicating were required for the next year and a half.

Daniel experienced developmental delays as he grew older. He endured physical therapy and occupational therapy under the supervision of a developmental specialist.

In addition, three of Daniel's middle-ear bones which had been fractured and dislodged in the crash, were causing moderate to severe conducive hearing loss in his right ear.

“He could hear me calling him, but he couldn't tell where the voice was coming from,” Amy explained.

“That's OK for a toddler, but as they get older, they need to know where sounds are coming from, especially if they're riding a bike or playing on a playground.”

In October, Daniel underwent surgery at Children's Hospital to reconnect his middle-ear bone to his ear drum using a titanium prosthesis.

Dr. David Chi, director of the Hearing Center at Children's Hospital, was confident that Daniel's hearing would improve, and full healing would occur about three months following the operation.

However, within one month of the four-hour surgery, Daniel's hearing tested 100 percent normal.

“We're thrilled about that,” said Chi, 43, of Franklin Park. “We expect Daniel to be as functional with hearing as any other boy.”

His recovery is considered complete, although routine medical monitoring will continue.

“It's miraculous to take something that was so terrible in the first few days to something that went so well, to see our son persevere and see the doctors do amazing things,” Amy said.

“We have incredible amounts of gratitude. Life is so much richer.”

Laurie Rees is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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