In front of his home on Pennsylvania Avenue, which was damaged by Hurricane Sandy, 13-year-old Robert Browne was all smiles as family and friends gave him a heartfelt welcome at a block party in his honor last Saturday.
The event was called Robertpalooza, and it was Browne’s first time back to his neighborhood in more than a month, since a surfing accident left him paralyzed. Family members said that it was a respite from NYU Langone Medical Center’s rehabilitation facility in Manhattan, where Robert has been undergoing physical therapy daily from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
“It was tough when he had to leave,” said his uncle, Thomas Browne. “He’s in excellent spirits, and the outpouring of support has been incredible.”
On July 3, Browne, an avid surfer, all-around athlete and Long Beach Middle School student, was at a local surf camp when, in an effort to avoid a collision with another surfer, he jumped off his board and hit a sandbar, his family said.
“There was a young surfer who cut in front of him,” Thomas Browne said. “He went down and hit his head in the sandbar.”
Robert was rushed to a local hospital, and later, because of the severity of his injury, he was taken to North Shore LIJ’s pediatric intensive care unit. Doctors determined that he had crushed his C5 and C6 vertebrae, sending shards of bone through his spinal cord, his family said. He has lost the use of his legs and hands, and now uses a wheelchair. He has undergone three surgeries, including one that lasted six hours, and is battling, with the help of physical therapists, to regain the use of his legs.
“Every spinal cord injury is different,” Thomas Browne said. “And with our faith and Robert’s determination, we’re optimistic about his full recovery. But the doctors can’t promise what his prognosis is right now.”
Robert’s dad, Tim, a lifelong Long Beach resident and a single father who is raising Robert and his brothers, Michael and Tim Jr., is constantly by his side. “He’s basically living in the hospital with Robert,” Thomas said. “Tim always rises to every occasion, and he’s pretty extraordinary.”