After Toddler’s Nightmare Traffic Accident, Expert Brain Care Makes a Difference

September 23, 2021

April 7, 2021, started out like any other day for the Sanchez family, but in an instant, it turned into every parent’s nightmare. Two-year-old Dariel Armando Sanchez was with his family at a neighbor’s house in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, when he suddenly ran after a friend. He opened a door to the house, ran toward the street where cars were passing and was hit by a car.

Worried an ambulance would take too long, his mother, Doris left for the hospital with her son in a police car. “Dariel was breathing but could not speak or cry,” she says. He was taken to the closest hospital, Raritan Bay Medical Center, where he arrived unconscious and having trouble breathing. Doctors inserted a tube through his mouth and into his airway, and placed him on a ventilator to help him breathe.

After a few hours, he was taken by ambulance to K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

Extensive Injuries Requiring Specialized Care

Dariel suffered multiple injuries to his head, knee and kidney. He fractured his skull bone, and an MRI showed that he had a subdural hematoma, a condition that is serious and needs to be monitored closely in order to prevent further brain damage. He also had other MRI findings that were very concerning. Given such abnormalities, Dariel was at risk for neurologic complications.

In addition, Dariel had a seizure, a sudden electrical disturbance in his brain, and he was at risk for having more. Luckily, the Children’s Hospital is a level 3 epilepsy center, which means they are accredited to provide high-quality, specialized seizure care.

Pediatric neurologist and seizure expert Roopal Karia, M.D., came to see Dariel in the pediatric intensive care unit. She placed him on a video EEG test, which continuously monitors and records brainwaves, to pinpoint where the seizure was coming from.

“Video EEG testing is important for patients who are having seizures, or for patients who have waxing and waning responses after trauma and for those who are not having overt seizures. It can show us the brain function at any given time,” Dr. Karia says.

The video EEG allowed Dr. Karia to tailor Dariel’s treatment. He started an anti-seizure medication to prevent more seizures.

“This was a complex case because it involved a head trauma, fractures, seizure and an abnormal MRI findings,” Dr. Karia says. “Dariel required close observation and benefited from a talented and versatile care team that included trauma, pediatric intensive care led by Matthew McCarrick, M.D., and pediatric neurosurgery led by Lawrence Daniels, M.D.

Happy Homecoming

On April 16, after nine days in the hospital, Dariel was discharged from the hospital.

“Today, he is doing much better, thank God,” says Doris. “He wants to run all the time like any 2-year-old, but he falls a lot.” Sometimes, Dariel will touch the back of his head and tell his parents that his head hurts. He continues physical therapy and follow-up visits with Drs. Karia and Daniels.

“I would recommend this hospital to anyone without hesitation,” says Doris. “The attention to my baby’s needs was very thorough—not just expert but caring. And it wasn’t just the attention to his needs but to ours, too.” She credits the team with helping her and her family get through an incredibly tough time.

“Dariel’s family support was indispensable,” says Dr. Karia. “They were always there, always available to answer questions. It makes a difference when the family is there, involved in their loved one’s care, working with us as one team.”

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