Porter's condition sees improvement

by Jessica Chen | 11/18/04 6:00am

Nine months after Christina Porter '06's accident at the Dartmouth Skiway, she is slowly gaining more and more consciousness, with the help of specialists and rehabilitators at the JFK Johnson Hartwyck Rehabilitation Center in Edison, N.J.

Porter's life today is defined by a series of monumental firsts. According to a website set up by her parents to provide updates on her condition to family and friends, she is now able to localize her eyes to the sound of voices, music and videotapes. She can smile and indicate "yes" and "no" with small movements of her head.

This September, Porter was able to make a short excursion to a local mall and shop at the Gap with her mother.

Porter had been in a coma for six months following a head injury on Feb. 3 at the Dartmouth Skiway, while taking a beginner's physical education ski course.

Last July, Porter was moved from the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City to the New Jersey institute, a leader in head trauma evaluation and treatment, where she began regaining consciousness.

JFK Johnson Hartwyck spokeswoman Theresa Adjekum said the excellent patient care and specialists at the institute make it one of the best organizations for patients in Porter's position.

"We have new equipment, new technology, new drugs," Adjekum said.

Porter's condition had originally been complicated by pneumonia and serious infections, following several cranial surgeries. On Sept. 29, she suffered from a small brain seizure. Her condition has been mostly improving, though, with preventive drugs and treatments.

In the weeks leading up to Halloween, Porter began showing signs of hunger, despite being fed directly through a tube connected to her stomach. She has been able to swallow applesauce, and by Halloween, was able to taste cupcake icing and whipped cream.

The institute is dedicated to helping patients return to their normal lives. According to the hospital's website, JFK Johnson Hartwyck's physicians seek to restore real-life skills for those with head injuries so that they may return to their family and community as much as possible.

Porter's father, Brent Porter, has been active in establishing the Christina Fund for Head Trauma, which attempts to get legislators to require skiers of all skill levels to wear helmets, as bicyclists must do. Last summer, he made a trip to the College to speak to a group of about 50 Dartmouth students and faculty about the fund, according to Elizabeth Ranson '06, a friend of his daughter who attended the event.

Porter and his wife, Mary, remain in touch with Dartmouth President James Wright and Dean of the College James Larimore.

"I visited with Porter and her mother during a recent visit to New York," Larimore said. "[I] shared with Christina's mother that many people here at Dartmouth continue to pray for Christina and her family and that we are keeping them in our thoughts."

The Porters hope to hold a Christina Fund Benefit, currently scheduled for February 2005, on the one-year anniversary of her accident.