Teen healing, playing flute

Posted 10/8/08

Robyn Lydick Crack! “Fingers are not supposed to bend like that, genius.” That was the moment Henry Barrett knew he had done something horribly …

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Teen healing, playing flute


Robyn Lydick


“Fingers are not supposed to bend like that, genius.”

That was the moment Henry Barrett knew he had done something horribly wrong with his right hand.

Barrett, a senior at Lutheran High at Parker, was injured with classmate Mitch Helfer in a pep rally tug-of-war game Oct. 12, 2007.

Two nights previously, he attended a Jethro Tull concert to see his flute idol, Ian Anderson.

Riding in an ambulance to Littleton Adventist Hospital, he asked paramedics Jeff Meyers and Troy Angelo if he would ever play flute again.

He asked the same question of his surgeon, Dr. Lewis Oster.

“Maybe,” was the reply.

Oster, along with Dr. Sean Griggs, spent 10 hours in a surgical suite repairing the delicate nerves, bones and muscles in the center of Barrett’s left hand.

Most have regained strength.

Barrett can play his flute with reasonable precision.

As Barrett stretches his hand on his flute, he finds points where he cannot tell how much pressure he is applying to his pinky.

If he demonstrates the move without his flute, his hand will shake.

The muscles in the center of his hand are still weaker, but Barrett refuses to let that be a permanent condition.

“I had a very motivated patient,” said Kelly Martin, the hand therapist who worked with Barrett last winter and spring. “He also had the support of his family and school community.”

Barrett’s father, Kevin Barrett, spent months working with his son during therapy.

Joanna Springer, concert director at Swallow Hill Music Association, has known Barrett and his parents since he was 11. At the time, she ran the venue’s café.

Barrett was a common sight in the café, selling cookies and drinks during shows.

“Actually his recovery is amazing to me,” Springer said. “I remember seeing his hand immobilized in a cast shortly after he had his surgery and he couldn’t move his fingers. A few months later out of the cast he could barely wiggle his fingers and now to be able to play his instrument is impressive. It takes a lot of dexterity to play a flute and honestly, based on what I saw of his hand after the surgery, I didn’t think it was possible to make that kind of recovery especially in only a year’s time.”

In the months since the accident, Barrett continues to deal with finding an answer for why the accident happened. He understands the how, but not the why.

When asked to do a re-enactment, he shakes his head.

“I don’t like ropes much anymore,” Barrett said.

He also lays no blame on anyone, not the school officials or other students in the game.

“We’re so proud of Henry for overcoming the challenges and keeping his trademark smile,” said Rodolfo Betancourt, marketing director at Swallow Hill. “He’s one of our true homeboys.”

David Casiano, known to Barrett as Mr C., but to people in Parker as Mr. Mayor, said both Barrett and Helfer are recovering well in school.

“Being in a Christian school that is based on faith, really understand the power of prayer,” Casiano said. “Henry has really matured. He’s not blowing stuff off like he did before.”

Casiano still sees Barrett roaming the halls, late for class. He still refuses to write Barrett a tardy slip.

Physically, Barrett is recovered from the surgery.

The reminders of the accident and surgery remain.

Now his mother, Reggie Barrett, takes him regularly to an acupuncturist for pain.

“Medication didn’t do anything,” Henry Barrett said. “But the acupuncture was immediate relief.”

Henry Barrett was born left hand-dominant. His first school system trained him to use his right hand for writing.

After the accident, he started writing a bit with his left hand, but has returned to using his right.

He said the difference in his handwriting, awkward in the best of circumstances, is very little.

He draws with his right hand.

This recovery is nothing short of miraculous, Oster said.

“I gave him a 40 percent chance of regaining the use of his fingers,” Oster said. “I’m very, very happy with the results.”

Barrett’s nerves were not cut, but basically had the inner “threads” pulled from the outer threads, like fraying yarn.

Looking closely at the back of Barrett’s hand, one sees a small, maybe quarter-inch section of unflawed skin in the scar.

That flap of skin was part of the miracle.

“Skin acts like a vein,” Oster said.

With the flap of skin keeping some blood going to the injury, oxygen kept the tissues alive.

Reggie Barrett gives a lot of credit to the Parker rescue workers who took Henry to the hospital.

“They are our angels,” she said.

Henry Barrett probably will always be short of some sensation.

Right after the accident, he had desensitization therapy since the newly grown nerves were extra sensitive.

Hand therapist Martin placed his hand in a bucket of rice.

“Usually, it feels good to swirl your hand in a bucket of rice,” Henry Barrett said. “This felt like razor blades.”


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