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Friends hope cards speed boy's recovery from brain surgery

By: Lisa Walton
October 15, 2012
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Six years ago, Justin Marshall of Colorado Springs was in a car accident that changed his and his family’s life forever.

The boy, now 11, lost part of his skull on the right side. His left arm and hand are paralyzed, and he has no peripheral vision on his left side. He walks with a limp and wears leg braces. On Wednesday, he’ll have brain surgery at a Denver hospital that family members hope will cure the seizures he’s been having since a year after the accident.

And friends are hoping to fill Justin’s hospital room with get-well cards to cheer him to a swift recovery.

Lee Richards, community outreach director in the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, wants to send some love in a “card shower” his way.

“It would just be nice for him to have that so he’ll know the whole community is in his corner,” she said.

“I think it will make a difference to this little boy.”

The Marshall family, which now includes 4-year-old Brooklyn Grace, could use the boost after a grueling six years.

All five members of the Marshall family had to be cut from a mangled car that flipped across a median in Maryland on Memorial Day. The crash happened when three young drivers lost control of their cars during a drag race.

The Marshalls were coming home from a day of swimming and had taken the more scenic route home from dinner. They were stopped at a light when a car smashed into them from behind, sending both cars flying through the air.

Justin, 5 at the time, suffered a shattered skull, permanent brain damage, and a broken leg. His sister McKenna, two at the time, suffered two broken legs and a broken nose and was in a full body cast for 7 weeks.  And his older brother Christian, 6, was pronounced dead at the scene.

McKenna and her parents James and Sheyna, made a full recovery. But Justin spent six weeks in a coma and six months in the hospital relearning how to swallow, sit up, walk, and talk again.

He’ll have to do it all over again after Wednesday.

To stop the seizures, doctor’s recommended a hemispherectomy, a rare surgery to remove a portion of his brain, severing the connection between the right and left sides.  It was originally scheduled for early November, but was rescheduled after his seizure activity increased dramatically last week.

The surgery will be the 13th surgery since the accident.

His mother Sheyna Marshall, hopes that Justin, who likes to use his scooter and play socccer, will recover quickly.

“We’re hoping ... when he comes out of this, it will be a whole lot easier for him to rebound,” she said. “Nothing is 100 percent. They can’t guarantee anything. And that’s what so scary about it.”

The right side of Justin’s brain was so damaged by the accident that it increases the possibilities of complications, Sheyna said.

The Marshalls moved to Colorado Springs two years ago, when his father James Marshall, a sergeant in the Air Force, was stationed at Schriever Air Force Base. Shortly afterwards, Sheyna became at Fountain police officer.

“I was a stay-at-home mom for about 11 years, and then when we moved to Colorado, I just kind of needed something a little bit more,” Sheyna said.

On Tuesday morning, Sheyna will share her story about how one bad decision can impact lives forever. More than 100 students from 30 high schools in El Paso and Teller counties will listen to her presentation, which kicks off this year’s DRIVE SMART High School Traffic Safety Challenge.

On Tuesday, Justin will also be admitted to Children’s Hospital in Aurora. Sheyna hopes he won’t be in the hospital for more than a week.

Justin she said, is just an all around sweet guy and huge flirt.

“He loves the ladies,” she said. “He’s definitely one of those types of kids who can make everyone love him.”

The public can send get-well cards to Justin Marshall, c/o Children’s Hospital Denver, 13123 E. 16th Ave., Aurora, CO  80045.


DRIVE SMART Colorado has been spreading the message of safe driving to high school students for more than two decades.
Maile Gray, executive director of DRIVE SMART Colorado, said it’s a program that saves lives.
“I will guarantee you that somebody did not do something stupid behind the wheel because of something they saw in a DRIVE SMART campaign,” Gray said.

The program encourages students from participating schools to take what they learn from the hour-long presentation, and create their own 7-week campaign at school to encourage responsible driving.  The nonprofit organization provides students with resources to create their own ideas for a schoolwide safe driving campaign.  

They can bring in any speakers from the kick-off presentation. And at the end of 7 weeks, schools with the best campaigns win prizes.

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