‘This community stepped up’

By on June 14, 2017

Brendan Holbritter’s near-death experience and miraculous recovery sets stage for one-on-one hoops match with ‘Father John’

Brendan Holbritter began a 48-day hospital stay critically injured. But the 17-year-old Ephrata High School athlete this week shot hoops and swam in the family’s backyard pool near a "Welcome Home Brendan" sign placed June 7, the day of his return. Photo by Paulette Holbritter

Brendan Holbritter began a 48-day hospital stay critically injured. But the 17-year-old Ephrata High School athlete this week shot hoops and swam in the family’s backyard pool near a “Welcome Home Brendan” sign placed June 7, the day of his return. Photo by Paulette Holbritter

Father John McLoughlin, pastor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Church, and parishioner Brendan Holbritter, 17-year-old Ephrata High School junior, recently built a special bond.

The bond strengthened during Brendan’s 48-day hospital stay where he inspired prayers among the OMPH community led by Father John who provided support and comfort during the student’s near-death experience and remarkable recovery.

Brendan suffered severe head trauma during a freak injury while sitting on a car that suddenly moved. He was ultimately placed in a coma following injuries that included bruises to his lungs, heart and liver, a lacerated knee and fractured kneecap.

He was placed on a respirator to assist with breathing while under heavy sedation. A probe was placed in his brain to measure brain pressure because he was unresponsive.

Nevertheless, Brendan this week swam in the backyard pool and shot hoops near a “Welcome Home Brendan” sign placed on their garage June 7.

That home court is where Brendan will play the pint-sized, 50-something Father John in a game of one-on-one hoops.

“Brendan took Father John’s challenge so the game is on when Father John comes back from Ireland,” said Brendan’s mother, Paulette Holbritter. “Brendan’s working on his shot now so Father John has no chance.”

Brendan’s mind appears as sharp as ever and he articulated perfectly during an interview Tuesday.

He seems healthy but the recovery took a toll physically. His summer rehab, beginning this week aims to correct his lost 35 pounds of muscle mass.

“I’m ready to go; three times a week and that’s three sessions a day doing occupational, physical, and speech (rehab) at 45 minutes each,” Brendan said. “I’m ready for it; I need to do this.”

He’s gotten a jump start “getting my strength back and getting my energy back.”

“Every day I’m running on an exercise bike and trying to get outside to do as much as I can,” he said “I always shoot basketball with my dad, you know, short shots playing horse and stuff. It feels good to know that I can still do these things. And yes I have a pool in the backyard so I’ve been really getting into walking and stretching in the pool but obviously I can’t get my head wet.”

Brendan learned he’d forged many relationships throughout the community and beyond often through prayer groups, Paulette said.

“I think it’s hard for him to describe how he feels because I think he’s in actual shock,” she said. “He’s so humble…he’s not a kid that likes to be the center of attention.”

Brendan’s “shock” comes from a disbelief “that all these people actually know who I am now,” Paulette said.

She urges him “try and understand the journey you came from where you were and where you are today.”

“So many people have been praying and thinking about you that it is a little overwhelming for you I get it,” Paulette told him.

Brendan does not remember anything immediately following the critical injury April 21 but he has clear memory of his life leading up to that day and suffers no short-term memory loss.

His journey encompassed visits to three hospitals. He was placed in a medically induced coma and had a procedure to remove some of his skull due to brain swelling at Lancaster General Hospital. About two weeks later, he was airlifted to the University of Maryland Medical Center’s shock trauma center.

Finally, Brendan was moved to the pediatric unit of the Penn State Rehabilitation Hospital on May 19, where he began several types of therapy and made significant progress.

“I think most about just how lucky I really am to actually be here,” he said. “I’m very thankful for all the support I’ve had and have in my life. I do find it overwhelming at times. I truly understand what people saw and what they went through and what I went through. Obviously, I never wanted it to happen. But, you know, stuff does happen and that’s OK.”

Paulette said Ephrata High School staff is preparing Brendan to catch up on the schoolwork he missed in the hospital and be ready for his senior year beginning in August.

“The Ephrata School District has been amazing, Mr. Gallen (EHS principal) will personally call us to see how Brendan’s doing and has set up meetings to discuss what we can do,” she said.

Brendan, who played starting quarterback on the Ephrata High School team and guard on the basketball team as a junior, said his goal after rehab is to play football and basketball next season.

But for now, it’s one step at a time said Paulette, who described the nearly nine-week ordeal that began with her Facebook post requesting “just prayers” for Brendan.

“It is breathtaking,” she said. “Never in my life have I seen so many people coming together.”

Brendan ended up on prayer lists “from Vermont to California and back and in other countries,” she said.

“It’s overwhelming, Paulette said. “So many people, people I don’t even know have approached me to say ‘we know you’re Brendan’s mom, I just want to let you know he’s on out prayer list at church.’ The only thing I ever asked was their prayers and their positive energy, you know, to pull him through this to pull the rest of us through this together.”

There’s no word in the English language that could “express my gratitude and appreciation for everybody’s prayers and their help.”

“This community stepped up,” Paulette said.

Patrick Burns is social media editor and staff writer for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.


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