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LEO WALCOTT

Posted Tuesday, October 02, 2007 by Kevin Gleason Times Herald Record
Four-story fall didn't slow Middletown athlete
1 of 1 Leo Walcott runs on the track at Middletown High School during practice on April 27, 2007.Times Herald-Record/TOM BUSHEYApril 28, 2007
Middletown

Leo Walcott always has been a bundle of energy. He was 5 when he walked out to the balcony of his family's place in Trinidad, slipped on a chair and fell 49 feet.

He landed feet first, a neighbor said, and Leo being Leo, bounced right back up, broken leg and all. That's when blood rushed to his brain and he fell unconscious, death looming.

"They had to take pieces of my skull out," the Middletown High sophomore is saying outside the locker room. "They thought I was going to die."

Doctors drilled holes in both sides of his head to drain the blood. A thin layer of skin covered a three-centimeter hole above his right ear. He spent a month in the hospital. Doctors said he could forget ever playing contact sports. Any blow to the injured area could be fatal. But mom's prayers had been answered. He was alive.

The accident was all over the news in Trinidad. Folks came by to pray. Everyone was rooting for the little boy who fell four stories and lived. Leo's older sister had fallen asleep watching him.

"It was a miracle," said Leo's mother, Delphina Roberts.

Leo made it to preschool. Soon he was playing just about everything. Leo and his mom moved to Middletown when he was 13 in search of a better life. Leo joined the school's jayvee soccer team. "If I do die, I'll die doing something I like," he told Mom. "I have to do more. I like to do a lot of stuff."

But Mom could only handle it for part of the season.

"I'm sorry," she told the coach, "Leonardo can't play on the soccer team."

Roberts ached. She had separated from her husband, who is back in Trinidad with Leo's older brother and sister. It's just she and Leo in their apartment off Route 211. She does everything possible to make sure he stays a good kid, checking out every kid he hangs with, giving him a 7 p.m. curfew.

"Everyone around here already knows Leonardo's mom," she says.

Mom so badly wanted him to do the fun things his friends did, to be happy, and that meant playing sports. But she couldn't bear to see Leo put himself in danger.

Then came an option. Leo's growth had qualified him for surgery to put a titanium plate in his head. It would allow him to play any sport he wanted, like other kids. Doctors said the surgery was no problem. But that didn't ease Mom's nerves. She awoke early on the morning of the surgery.

"Lord, I am very nervous. I want to leave this in your hands."

Doctors expected Leo to spend a night in ICU after the 2-hour procedure. That wasn't necessary because he came out of surgery so well. Within days he was walking laps around the hospital corridors. Leo couldn't wait to return to the track team. He had come out for track last spring. His fall, though, had at least one side effect. "Coach, I can't finish the workout," he said one day, his leg shaking.

Leo was back practicing with the team two weeks after surgery. He ran his first race on Tuesday against Port Jervis. Leo clocked 2:23 in the 800, about eight seconds slower than usual but amazing given the circumstances. Eric Hipsman and his dad Kevin, the track coaches, are used to kids begging off the distance races. Leo just told them he wants to go up in distance, to one- and two-miles races. He's going to play football in the fall.

But that's Leo. The kid just can't sit still.

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