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Former lacrosse star’s tenacity is key to recovery

By : By Thomas Moore II


David Streeten, now a team manager, instructs two lacrosse players in a face-off.
As a freshman, David Streeten was the premier face-off man on a Binghamton lacrosse squad that was picked to finish sixth in the seven team America East Conference. Instead, the Bearcats went unblemished in the regular season conference schedule.

But that season’s accomplishments were minute compared to those Streeten has made since a near fatal accident that happened the following summer.

On July 23, 2004, Streeten and several friends went cliff jumping near his home in Corning. Streeten fell an estimated 40 feet, hitting his head on rocks on the way down. He was pulled from the water by friends, who tended to him until a local fire department arrived. Streeten was flown via medical helicopter to Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira.

Later that day, he underwent major surgery to repair damaged brain tissue.

Within a week, the neurosurgeon was surprised by the speed of his recovery. Some of the nurses even referred to him as “the miracle boy.”

Even so, Streeten’s rehabilitation is still a work in progress. After two weeks at Arnot Ogden, Streeten was transferred to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, which has a unit that specializes in head trauma.

“My first two weeks at St. Mary’s, I was confined to a wheelchair because I could not really move my (left) leg or arm,” Streeten said. “On the second day there the nurse told me, ‘David, we are going to walk today.’ I grabbed the walker and started to walk in what I believe was the ugliest display of walking ever, but I was able to walk.”

It became clear that the road to recovery was going to take time. Streeten had to relearn how to perform some of the most basic everyday actions while regaining strength and control of his left arm and leg.

“The first month was slow, but by the end of it I had mastered climbing stairs,” he said. “By the time I left the therapy in Rochester, they had me on a treadmill. The longest I could jog before getting winded was about a minute and a half.”

Since then Streeten has tried to regain as much of a “normal” life as possible. Although it takes him much longer than most to complete simple tasks, he is slowly improving.

Streeten lacks the dexterity to type with two hands, a standard for most college students, but he’s working on it. He only recently perfected the task of tying his shoes with both hands.

After taking a year off from school to recover, Streeten returned to campus in the fall.

He was fortunate enough to have his younger brother, Duncan, who also plays lacrosse on the team, starting his freshman year at Binghamton at the same time.

“I don’t know if coming back would have been so easy if Duncan was not here,” said Streeten, a creative writing major. “Since I live off campus, I was often in his room last semester writing or editing papers. Sometimes I even took naps in his room. He was always there to help me, even coming with me to get my books since I could not carry 14 books with one arm.”

Streeten, 21, said that kind of support from relatives, friends and former teammates has been essential to his recovery so far. “I can’t say or do enough that will ever repay my family, friends and coaches who helped me get through the recovery process,” he said. “I know I would not have recovered the way I have without them.”

Those close to Streeten say it is more than a miracle that he has been able to recover so well.

“It’s hard to put into words,” head coach Ed Stephenson said. “Just seeing his starting point (after the accident) to where he is now is unbelievable. It is the same character, resolve and passion that made him successful on the field that have allowed him to progress to where he is now. He knows he still has a lot of work in front of him but we know he is capable.”

Streeten, who now serves as a manager for the lacrosse team, still hopes he can return to the field with a stick in his hand. “I am still trying to do as much therapy as I can,” he said. “I still have the goal to come back and play lacrosse. Whether or not I will be able to do that, I do not know. There are definitely some things more important than lacrosse. If I can’t play again, I still am able to eat, sleep, walk and get a job someday. That’s better than the alternative.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08