WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Luca Annunziata fell ill November 28, a few hours after a fall while playing a casual game of roller hockey with his family.
“He was not wearing a helmet and he suffered a traumatic brain injury,” explained Dr. Donna Watson-Plummer of St. Mary's Medical Center.
Initially after the fall Luca felt fine. He went home, hung around the house and ate a meal. It was not until later that evening that his parents knew something was wrong.
"Probably around 7:30 or so we got a phone call from John and Darby [Annuziata] saying that he is experiencing what appeared to be a brain injury," said Luca's uncle Rob Riccardo.
Annuziata was airlifted to St. Mary's Medical Center where he was rushed into the operating room for surgery on his brain.
"You can fall," explained Dr. Watson-Plummer. "You may not have a skull fracture, but you can have significant bleeding in the brain which is one of the things he had."
Nearly two weeks later the 11-year-old who loves fishing and candy is still in a coma. But Riccardo says he is showing signs he's going to pull through.
"We got some movement from him the other day. We got a thumbs up from him," Riccardo shared. "It just gave us all the chills. It was an emotional time that after a week or so of not really getting a response to have him do that just gave us such an encouragement."
Encouragement to share Annunziata's story to hopefully protect another child from a traumatic brain injury by simply wearing a helmet.
"It's always so important to wear a helmet," Dr. Watson-Plummer said. "Because that's the one thing that you can do to prevent a lot of what we see here in our intensive care unit.
According to the Centers for Disease Control close to 1.5 million people visit the emergency room for traumatic brain injuries each year. Almost half a million of those visits are made by children aged 0 to 14. The most common cause of a traumatic brain injury is a fall, like in Annuziata's case.
"We need to use this situation to really get the word out there," Riccardo said. "It's about educating the children, the parents as well to understand that something like this could happen so quickly and you can prevent it."