Family thankful for holiday ‘miracle’
November 21, 2001
Steamboat Springs — When Ken and Cindy Ursell sit down to Thanksgiving dinner today, all three of their sons Adam, Luke and Josh will be with them.
Not so long ago, the Ursells couldn’t be sure that would happen. Their youngest son 10-year-old Josh spent much of the month of September in a coma at Denver Children’s Hospital following a bicycle accident on Labor Day. At one point, the Ursells learned their son had a 50-percent chance of survival.
But now, Josh is well on his way to recovery, working on rehabilitation at home with his grandmother and playing with his brothers. Cindy, who teaches music at Steamboat Springs middle and high schools, and Ken, who works for Rubicon, couldn’t be more thankful.
“It’s our Thanksgiving miracle; it’s our Christmas present,” Cindy Ursell said. “It’s our everything to receive a second chance as parents.”
Josh’s fight for his life started as a search for a missing watch.
Josh and Luke were riding their bikes along the bike path on Labor Day, looking for Josh’s missing watch when they spotted some kids riding their bikes down Howelsen Hill. They decided to join the fun.
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But on the way down Howelsen, Josh started going too fast. He applied his front brakes and flew over the handlebars landing on the left side of his head and face. He had suffered severe trauma to his head, and wasn’t moving.
“It was the worst phone call I’ve ever received,” said Cindy Ursell. “When the police asked if I had a son named Josh, my heart sank.”
Josh was immediately flown to Denver Children’s Hospital, where he spent more than three weeks in a coma. Cindy Ursell said that the neurologists explained the coma was a temporary thing that would end as the right side of Josh’s brain began to heal.
Josh’s grandparents stayed at the hospital with him day after day. They read to him and exercised his legs. They helped take care of Josh while Cindy and Ken worked their jobs in Steamboat Springs and visited Josh whenever they had free time.
When weeks passed and Josh had not made progress, doctors started to become concerned. There was discussion that he may not awaken.
“We thought that might be it and that there wasn’t hope he would get back to his normal life,” Cindy Ursell said.
But after three weeks, Cindy Ursell said, Josh started to open his eyes a sign that he might be coming out of the coma. A few days later on Sept. 28, Cindy and Ken walked into Josh’s hospital room and found their son staring at them.
“We said, ‘Josh,’ and he smiled,” Cindy Ursell said. They knew at that moment that he remembered who they were.
Later, Josh’s dad told a couple of jokes and Josh laughed. It was then that the couple knew their son was going to be OK.
Josh’s left side was paralyzed from the damage done to the right side of his brain. Cindy Ursell said that when Josh hit the left side of his head, the force of his brain hitting the right side of his skull caused the injury. Josh’s helmet saved his life by preventing any further damage to his head.
Josh needed to relearn how to eat, talk and swallow. He progressed rapidly and was released from the hospital Nov. 2, almost exactly two months after his accident. His return home was much sooner than doctors had predicted.
Ursell said she thinks it is the family’s strong faith and the prayers of others that has helped speed up his remarkable recovery.
Since Josh’s release from the hospital, he has regained a lot of movement in the left side of his body and has started to practice walking. Ursell said it was in just the last couple of days that his fingers started to move for the first time.
“I think he’ll make a 90 percent recovery,” she said. “He is such an active kid that even if he has a limp, it won’t stop him for doing anything he wants.”
Josh said he is looking forward to getting back to school in February.
His teacher, Mike Johnson, visited him while he was in the hospital in Denver and has arranged to help Josh while he is at home and out of school, Cindy Ursell said.
“I’m a miracle that is going to be walking soon,” Josh said.
Josh’s grandmother Nana is staying with the family to help out during his recovery. She and Josh, said Ursell, are a great team. She helps Josh practice his daily exercises and together they have set a goal to have him walking by Christmas.