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Injured teenager needs $267,300 for medical bills

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St David’s teenager Zhamir Denbrook-Pitt is being weaned off a ventilator at Lahey Hospital & Medical Centre in Burlington, Massachusetts (Photograph supplied)

Tomorrow Bermudian Zhamir Denbrook-Pitt celebrates his 18th birthday in the surgical intensive care unit at Lahey Hospital & Medical Centre in Burlington, Massachusetts.

All he wants is a breath of fresh air.

“The hospital is trying to arrange for him to go outside, for a short time,” his father Justin Denbrook said.

The youngster has not been outdoors since the evening of July 26, when he crashed his bike on a corner at Southside, St David’s. He was riding home from cricket trials in St George’s.

He severely injured his spinal cord, and broke three vertebrae in his neck.

“Please pray for a smooth recovery for me,” he told The Royal Gazette in a brief interview. “I am feeling positive, but some days are better than others.”

Zhamir Denbrook-Pitt performed on stage at the Shelly Bay community fun day, 11 days before severely injuring himself in a motorcycle accident (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Mr Denbrook-Pitt is a student at Croydon College in South London where he just earned a level one certificate in music technology.

He is a rapper, and on July 15, performed on stage for the first time at the Shelly Bay community fun day.

“He was feeling really shy,” Mr Denbrook said. “I talked with him, and he came to his senses and got on stage. Afterwards he was feeling really pumped.”

Eleven days later tragedy hit.

Several days after the accident, he was airlifted to Lahey. He is a resident of Britain, where there is socialised medicine, but it was thought that a trip to England would be too far for him.

“He was in critical condition,” his grandmother Arlene Simmons said. “He would not have made it to England.”

Mr Denbrook-Pitt had fusion surgery in his neck to repair the broken vertebrae. He was also put on a ventilator because his spinal damage made it difficult for him to fill his lungs with enough air.

Doctors are unsure if he will walk again, but in the last couple of days he has been feeling his extremities more, which is a good sign.

“We believe he will walk again with the right support and rehabilitation,” his grandmother said. “He has the determination.”

Mr Denbrook said the first month after a spinal cord injury is the most critical time.

“The nerves don’t know what is going on, at first,” he said. “A lot of things are happening that he does not have control over. These are scary moments, but he is a strong boy.”

Mr Denbrook-Pitt is being weaned off the ventilator.

“The longest I have gone without a ventilator is 18 hours,” he said.

When the accident happened, he was on the island for two weeks to visit his family during the Cup Match holiday.

“He had HIP insurance, but that did not cover the air ambulance from Bermuda to Lahey and will not cover flying him to the UK,” Ms Simmons said. “It does cover 60 per cent of his care at Lahey, but after 45 days the insurance coverage runs out. He has to be out of Lahey by September 10. We cannot afford to keep him there after that.”

When his family gets the funds together, Mr Denbrook-Pitt will be going to St Georges Hospital in Tooting, London.

His mother, Sierra Pitt, estimated that the air ambulance to England would cost $115,000.

She was unsure what the cost of rehabilitation would be there.

“It is a costly process, especially for a spinal cord injury,” she said.

The Lady Cubitt Compassionate Association helped his family to pay for the air ambulance from Bermuda to Boston, but that money will need to be paid back.

“They give you a payment plan,” Ms Simmons said.

She said if they had the funds, Mr Denbrook-Pitt would already be on his way to England. The faster you start rehabilitation after a spinal cord injury, the better the outcome.

Ms Pitt said the experience has changed her son’s outlook.

“Teenagers are caught up in their friends and think about doing fun things,” she said. “He has been away at school in England. He said to me last night, ‘I should have spent more time with my family’. Those are his thoughts.”

His family recently visited the spot where Mr Denbrook-Pitt had the accident.

“It was at Southside, at the corner just after the gymnasium,” Mr Denbrook said. “The other night we were there and the police came across us as they were doing their rounds. We told them that my son had had an accident there. Since then, all the lights around there have been fixed. I am grateful for that.”

Ms Pitt said her son had his ups and downs.

“He gives thanks that he is still here,” she said. “We have to keep talking to him and reassuring him that it will work out.”

Mr Denbrook-Pitt has six younger siblings and many younger cousins.

“He is the leader of the pack,” Ms Simmons said.

His father described him as “down to earth”.

“He just rolls with the punches,” Mr Denbrook said. “He is a free spirit, and I think this would have been harder for him if he was not that type of person. Some people just have that strength to go on. I believe Zhamir is one of those people.”

His grandmother saw him as humble but outgoing.

“Everyone loves him,” she said. “He just has that aura. He has always been that way. The nurses at Lahey have literally adopted him. One nurse calls him her nephew. He is a sweet kid. He really is. I think that is why this is so difficult for us.”

Mr Denbrook-Pitt’s family are working to set up a charity for him that should be active by January.

“The process takes a while,” Ms Simmons said. “We have to get our financial statements in order.”

In the meantime they have been granted a fundraising permit, No T2185.

Mr Denbrook-Pitt’s family will be holding a pot luck this evening at the Bailey’s Bay Cricket Club from 5pm to 8pm at $25 a plate.

“His mother and father are from the Bailey’s Bay area,” Ms Simmons said.

Tickets can be obtained by calling 703-9853 or at the door.

There is also a GoFundMe page where $18,456 has already been raised.

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Published August 25, 2023 at 7:45 am (Updated August 26, 2023 at 8:14 am)

Injured teenager needs $267,300 for medical bills

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