Eighteen-year-old Tayler Maggi was a Sunnyslope High School senior living the life of a typical teenage boy. His routine consisted of attending school, going to the gym, hanging out with friends, and working part-time at a local bike shop. However, life took an unexpected turn on the night of April, 9, 2015,when Tayler’s mom, Mindy, got the phone call that every parent dreads.
The voice on the other end of the phone told Mindy to come to the hospital right away as her son had been shot in the head and would need to undergo emergency surgery!
While driving home from dinner with his girlfriend, an unfamiliar car full of teens opened fire on Tayler’s car and a bullet struck the left side of his head. While Tayler’s girlfriend was fortunate enough to escape injury, Tayler was left fighting for his life. He was rushed to nearby John C. Lincoln hospital where he underwent an emergency cranial surgery to remove a portion of his skull where he had been struck by the bullet. Tayler was not expected to survive the night.
According to Mindy, “I had no other option but to hold onto hope for Tayler.” Fortunately, hope prevailed, as Tayler miraculously survived the night. He did, however, remain in a coma for 12 days following the surgery. Friends and family kept vigil at the hospital, praying for Tayler to hang on.
“I just needed him to wake up. That was all. According to what doctors told us at that point, anything else would be a longshot,” adds Mindy.
One day, roughly two weeks following the shooting, Tayler’s family got the first of many miracles they had been hoping for. Tayler opened his eyes and began to look around the hospital room. Soon after, he was able to eat ice chips and wiggle a few of his fingers. These hopeful signs led doctors to suggest that Tayler be moved into the care of Dr. Randall Porter, a neurosurgeon at Barrow Brain and Spine in Phoenix, which is headquartered at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Barrow Brain and Spine boasts one of the most technologically advanced neuroscience facilities in the world and its team performs 9,500 cranial and spine surgeries annually. Tayler’s family eagerly embraced the opportunity for the teen to receive top-notch care from Dr. Porter and a world renowned team right in their Phoenix backyard. “With Barrow and Dr. Porter, we had ultimate trust,” says Mindy.
Once transferred to St. Joseph’s and Barrow, Tayler immediately began working with a team of occupational and physical therapists, several hours each day, six days per week. The goal was for Tayler to regain the most basic life skills that the teen previously took for granted – eating, talking and walking. Breathing was even a laborious task as Tayler was still utilizing a tracheostomy tube.
Though Tayler was making progress at Barrow, doctors still tried to manage expectations regarding his recovery. They told Tayler and his family that half of his body would never fully work. He would not be able to walk unassisted. It was unlikely that he would feed himself, or write, or speak in full sentences.
Yet, after watching her son survive the night and awake from his coma, Mindy chose to remain hopeful and passed this positive energy onto Tayler. “We’re going to play basketball soon, Tayler,” she told him. In fact, today Tayler credits Mindy for her unwavering support and optimism during his trying days in the hospital, calling his mom “so amazing.”
During Tayler’s initial weeks at Barrow, Dr. Porter and his team periodically checked in with Tayler to track his progress. It was during one of these routine visits, when Tayler was waiting to have his bone flap replaced, that Dr. Porter walked into the room and was told by Mindy that Tayler was moving the right side of his body. Dr. Porter assumed that Mindy was being overly optimistic. However, Dr. Porter pinched Tayler’s hand and was amazed to get a response!
“He was not only moving his right side, but moving very well, and even more, he was speaking and understood speech,” reflects Dr. Porter. “I would have given him a one percent chance of that kind of recovery – ever – yet alone in the first few months after injury!”
Tayler had been working with a team of 30-40 specialists but it was this “a-ha” moment — unearthed during Dr. Porter’s routine visit — that Tayler and his family had been hoping for. It brought the amazing realization that BOTH sides of Tayler’s body were functional!
“This appointment with Dr. Porter was a major turning point for Tayler and our family,” reflects Mindy. “We knew he was a top neurosurgeon, but we were also so touched and impressed by his compassion and his genuine investment in Tayler’s recovery. Dr. Porter spent so much time with us. He thoroughly answered all of our questions and we remain so grateful.”
Shortly after this breakthrough in Tayler’s recovery, Dr. Porter performed a cranioplasty, a procedure to replace the piece of bone that had been removed to relieve pressure on Tayler’s brain. A custom prothestic piece of plastic skull was installed to rebuild the contours of his head — essentially putting Tayler’s head back together! Following the procedure, Dr. Porter visited Tayler daily to ensure a smooth recovery. To help regulate Tayler’s brain pressure, Dr. Porter also placed a shunt within Tayler’s brain.
Post surgery, Tayler began to make remarkable progress! His trach and feeding tube were removed and, with continued therapy, he began speaking in full sentences and could eventually feed himself. The bed-ridden teenage boy who was wheeled into Barrow in May had even skipped using a walker and was able to walk out of Barrow completely unassisted when he was discharged in July.
“Our entire experience at Barrow – from nurses, to doctors, to assistants – was just so impressive. It’s a tight team they have– with such dedicated professionals who are all on the same page. This was so helpful during such a stressful time for our family,” says Mindy.
While his progress has been phenomenal, Tayler’s road to recovery continues. He still attends therapy daily, five days per week. Having graduated from high school, he has resumed working part time at the bike shop. Yet, Tayler has more to achieve. He dreams of going to college and becoming a firefighter. His ultimate wish? To experience the freedom of driving a car again!
There was no motive in the shooting that fateful April night. Tayler just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet, Mindy would suggest that Tayler’s recovery is a matter of perspective. In keeping with the optimistic outlook that has fueled Tayler and her family throught his ordeal, Mindy says, “We are just fortunate that Tayler ended up in the right place with the right team in order to have a chance at getting his life back.”
Thankful for all the support he continues to receive from Mindy and other caring friends and family members, Tayler now makes it a point to tell others how important it is to “live life, be happy, and never quit!”
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