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Keeping Jonah on the Playing Field

150 Stories Jonah

A soft ground ball rolled between the pitcher, catcher and first-baseman on a sunny April afternoon in 2016. Fourteen-year old Jonah, a Washington, D.C. eighth grader, sprinted for the ball, then raced the runner to first. He dove head first to make the out. Jonah’s team cheered, but he didn’t get up. The runner’s knee had hit Jonah’s temple, knocking him unconscious.

At a nearby emergency room, Jonah experienced the first in a series of grand mal seizures. Doctors thought he might need neurosurgery and called Children’s National Hospital. Our rapid helicopter transport service, SkyBear, brought him to our pediatric intensive care unit. Jonah recalls how the nurses helped him stay calm and relaxed. He spent three days in the hospital. “I wondered,” he says, “if I’d ever play baseball again.”

But the news was good. Jonah’s traumatic brain injury would heal without surgery. It wouldn’t be long—another six weeks—before he could play baseball again. He was surprised how quickly he felt better. He also learned about a brain condition he didn’t know he had. Advanced neuroimaging revealed agenesis of the corpus callosum. “It turns out that I was born without the center piece of my brain,” Jonah explains.

This unexpected diagnosis helped explain a learning disability that Jonah, now 18, had experienced throughout his life. “Children’s National is on top of the research, at the cutting edge,” Jonah’s mom, Nachama, says. “When things are difficult, that’s where you want to be.”