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Assistance sought for family

Six-year-old in critical condition after undergoing brain surgery for projectile injury

A 6-year-old Riverview Elementary School student remained in critical condition Monday as the week began after suffering a traumatic brain injury Friday when a projectile flew onto school grounds from under the deck of a lawnmower and struck him in the head.

Alex Hook, a first grader at the school at 300 E. Prosser in Silver Lake, had been at recess on Friday with classmates, according to his aunt Michelle Delaquila Koertgen. A landscaper had apparently mowed over a piece of rebar, which went airborne and struck the boy directly in the back of his head, according to a GoFundMe narrative posted by Koertgen.

According to the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department, the lawnmower was reportedly mowing the grassy median in the center of the street near the school just before noon when the incident occurred.

Alex was flown to Children’s Wisconsin hospital in Wauwatosa, where he underwent emergency brain surgery that same day. He suffered a fractured skull and bleeding in his brain. A piece of bone was removed from his brain, according to the GoFundMe page post.

“He’s still in critical but stable condition. He had additional swelling at the left side of his face today,” said Koertgen who spoke to the Kenosha News on Sunday night. Alex is currently in a medically induced coma, she said.

On Monday, her nephew was expected to undergo an MRI to determine if there’s additional swelling in the brain, she said. Regular updates on Alex's condition can be found on his parents' Facebook support page.

“And, at that time, they’ll make a determination if they’re going to do something from a medicine perspective or something more aggressive,” she said. “If (doctors) are comfortable with the level he’s at they’re going to, after the 72-hour mark, then contemplate taking him out of the medically induced state that he’s in.”

They will then determine the prognosis “for what is the best short-term, long-term (treatment),” Koertgen said.

Caryn Hook, his mother, has kept round-the-clock watch of Alex at the hospital.

“My sister has not left his side since the moment it happened,” Koertgen said.

Meanwhile, father Kirbey Hook is caring for their 10-year-old son Nathan, who has special needs. Koertgen said Nathan knows that his brother was injured, but not the severity.

Despite their age difference, she said the brothers are close.

“They do everything together. They love each other. They both are just the happiest, most affectionate, wonderful boys you could ever meet,” Koertgen said.

According to Koertgen, Kirbey, a U.S. Navy veteran, currently works full-time servicing machinery at a foundry, but his insurance coverage is not sufficient to pay all of Alex’s medical costs. Caryn is an independent contractor for an Illinois pharmaceutical company and is paid by the job, she said.

“We’re very well aware medical costs are going to be astronomical,” Koertgen said. The costs of the Flight For Life, the critical care transport service, which flew Alex to the hospital, she said, is an estimated $50,000 to $75,000, alone.

Koertgen said she started the fundraising page so the family would not have to worry about financing Alex’s treatment and care. The campaign had raised $70,000 of a $150,000 goal as of Monday afternoon.

“They need to focus 100 percent on the recovery of Alex and the well-being of Nathan,” she said. “That should be all they have to (focus) on.”

Aunt: Preventive measures needed

Koertgen said she believes that Alex’s injury could’ve been prevented.

“Somebody cutting the grass on the median, next to a group of children … this is totally avoidable,” she said.

She said she wants to see state legislation drafted and approved that would limit the timeframe and distance that maintenance, from lawn mowing to snow plowing, can be performed near schools while children are present outdoors.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, some 9,400 lawnmower-related injuries are reported in children each year.

In the meantime, Koertgen said that she and the Hooks are grateful for the outpouring of financial and moral support.

“It’s truly amazing how wonderful the community has been,” Koertgen said. “I want to specifically thank the school, the first responders, and the hospitals because we have been overwhelmed by their generosity and their kindness and their care.”

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