BY NICOLE ALLEGREZZA
Weeks before his 17th birthday, during his senior year of high school with only months left until graduation, Kaynen Peters was seriously injured in a car accident, in which he was T-boned on the driver’s side on North Ocean Avenue in Medford. Peters, now 21, suffers from traumatic brain injury on the road to recovery.
This Friday, April 13 he will be awarded the Sean Patrick Dixon Raider Courage Award for his inspirational story during the annual hall of fame induction ceremony at Patchogue-Medford High School.
“Kaynen is an inspiration to all individuals who were involved in a tragedy such as his and his ability to persevere and make steady gains over time. I am convinced Kaynen will continue to progress and will not stop until he walks and talks freely,” said Pat-Med High School principal Randy Rusielewicz. “I look forward to that day in the future. He is an incredible human being and is most deserving of the Patchogue-Medford Hall of Fame Sean Patrick Dixon Raider Courage Award.”
Sean Patrick Dixon, a Pat-Med student and lacrosse player diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer, was awarded the Raider Courage Award, which was later named in his honor after he passed in October 2017 at the age of 16, during last year’s induction.
The award was renamed to be awarded to someone who has overcome some obstacle in life that was very difficult not only for that individual, but for the family as well; someone who may continue to be dealing with adversity; someone who continues to demonstrate a never-give-up attitude towards overcoming extreme obstacles and hardships; is an inspiration to those who come into contact with this individual as he/she continues their journey; someone who sees the positive in negative situations; someone who continues to excel in whatever endeavors he/she undertakes despite the challenges placed in his/her way.
Peters embodies that exact definition and, despite his accident, recovered, and with the help of a home tutor completed his three remaining credits and graduated from Pat-Med in June of last year, able to walk up and receive his diploma.
“The principal and tutor made that day a phenomenal one,” said Peters’ mother, Stephanie Peters. “It was very special for him that they accommodated him with everything he missed out on.”
After the accident, Peters was in a coma for three months at Stony Brook Hospital, then spent 18 months in St. Johnlands Nursing Center’s head injury rehabilitation unit, where he was diagnosed with TBI. From there, he was released and went home with the help of his mother, sister (a Pat-Med senior) and a nursing aide at night while Stephanie is at work as a dispatcher. By day, his mom takes care of him, helping him learn to live with his disability and taking him to outpatient therapy at Professional Care Physical Therapy in East Patchogue.
Originally he was wheelchair-bound, unable to get around, but with determination and youth on his side he began to heal and walk again. He has since undergone multiple surgeries for his fractured left tibia, dislocated jaw, a trig to help him breath, his broken hip and to rework his shifted organs, common in car accident patients.
“He has been doing really well now,” said his mother, especially thanking the staff at Professional Care, of which owner George Ciresi nominated him for the award.
Since attending regular rehab, Peters now walks with guidance and can talk by typing on his iPad, which then dictates what he types. He is also working towards articulating his words by practicing his enunciation. Being that he kept most of his long-term memory but lost his short-term memory, his mother says you can often find Peters online trying to find ways to improve his short-term memory but most of his new way of learning is through repetition.
“He has been in great spirits. You need to have a positive outlook — kids feed on your energy. I couldn’t show him anything other than, ‘tomorrow will be a better day,’” she said, with him adding an iPad-dictated “woohoo!”
In the meantime, Peters still loves playing video games and enjoys riding his adult tricycle specifically made for his disability. As a former avid runner, Peters said (through his iPad) that his next goal is to run the track at the Brookhaven Ecology Center in Holtsville. Until then, he works up the energy to practice on a treadmill. He also hopes to one day write legibly without being “sloppy” and possibly pursue a career in marine and motor mechanics, something he wanted prior to the accident.
But that will depend on his short-term memory improvement, his mom added.
“It’s not that he doesn’t learn it, it’s just that he can’t retain it,” she explained. “We are working on it with sticky notes and reinforcing things over and over again.”
All in all, she continued, she is proud of her son for his determination to get back in to what he calls the “normal world” and for always keeping good spirits. “He doesn’t sit around depressed. I am so proud of him and where he has come today.”
Peters will be attending the induction/award ceremony tomorrow, April 13 with his mother.
The Patchogue-Medford Hall of Fame Booster Club Inc., is proud to announce the names of the inductees for the Induction Class of 2018. The Induction Ceremony and Dinner will be held on Friday, April 13 at Patchogue-Medford High School, NAVY (SEAL) LT Michael Murphy Campus. Tickets for this event can be purchased by contacting the Hall of Fame at 631-275-7924 or at email@example.com. Dinner begins at 5 p.m., followed by the induction ceremony at 7 p.m. sharp. Ticket prices are $40 per ticket.
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