Local News

Boy returns home after life-threatening blow to head

Posted October 21, 2011 6:26 p.m. EDT
Updated October 22, 2011 12:56 p.m. EDT

— Friday marked a hero's homecoming celebration like none other for a Nash County boy who underwent life-saving brain surgery after being hit in the head with a baseball.

Eleven-year-old Lee Winstead was released from a Greenville hospital, where he had been since Sept. 28, when a wild pitch struck him during warm-ups for his Little League game.

The sixth-grader tried to shake off the blow. He didn't cry and he didn't want to play ball either, but he also didn't want to leave, mom Lori Winstead said.

Eventually he started complaining that his head was hurting and that he wanted to sleep.

Winstead's suspicions that something was wrong were confirmed when her tough little man let her hold him.

She rushed him to a local hospital, where he was immediately airlifted to Pitt County Memorial Hospital for emergency surgery for a brain hemorrhage. Doctors removed a large part of his skull and some of his brain to remove the clot.

Afterward, it didn't look good, Winstead's coach, Sam Toler, said.

"The first thing the doctor said to all of us is, 'Well, the good news is he's alive,'" Toler said. "You know, everybody's hearts were in their throats. Then he said the next 72 hours would be touch and go, and he could go either way."

Fast forward three weeks later, Lee's progress has amazed doctors and nurses – it was the quickest they said they had ever seen.

Although he still has a long road to recovery, he is walking and talking, although he has some vision problems and gets frustrated, which is common after brain surgery.

From the ball field to the firehouse in Rocky Mount, the community rallied around him and his family.

"There's been tremendous support from the community, the baseball team, church, extended family – and that's what we are, extended family," Rocky Mount Fire Department Battalion Chief Jamie Vaughan said.

He would light up during visits from teammates as well as a visit from East Carolina University's baseball team and the Carolina Mudcats mascot and after he received an iPad donated by the Rocky Mount Best Buy so that he could practice his cognitive therapy.

On Friday, Lee was greeted by the same community – friends, teammates and even strangers with balloons and signs – to show him they are glad he's home.

Not one for crying, he was in tears, Winstead said.

"I asked him on the way home why he was crying, and he said he was crying because he was just thanking God for letting him come home," she said.