For 19-year-old Aaron Bullock, the slow walk to the front of the school auditorium is deliberate and steady. Children are already engaged, captured by the reality of the Moore, Oklahoma high school senior's focused attempt at a task that, for his curious observers, comes without thought, or little effort. For Aaron, it is pure accomplishment...a culmination of grit, hard work and persistence. But it's his message, the essence of who Aaron has become, that will command real attention. It will capture the core of even the feistiest first grader.
Aaron turns to face them, smiles, and in one sentence catapults their imaginations backward to a sunny day five years ago that changed his life forever. He hopes it will make an impact on his audience forever, too.
"Good morning," Aaron said. "Do you mind if I tell my story?"
For Aaron, whose measured speech still bears the obvious effects of a traumatic brain injury, the moment is one more triumph in a continuing process of physical rehabilitation following an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident. It is monumental considering that at one point, he had to learn how to swallow before he could even utter a spoken word again. Aaron then begins an account of his courageous story that is profiled in the latest feature on HopeTV.tv, the internet video channel of The Children's Center, a nonprofit hospital serving children with complex medical and physical disabilities in Bethany, Oklahoma.
"Aaron is the definition of achievement," said Albert Gray, chief executive officer of the Center. "I don't call him our main employee for nothing."
Gray gave Aaron the unofficial title after the teen worked on a Christmas card project in 2007. Aaron also returned to the Center to complete his Eagle Scout project that is part of the Center's barriers course, a one-of-a-kind trail featuring common obstacles that children with physical disabilities must learn to overcome. For two years, Gray watched Aaron relearn life after coming out of a coma and undergoing intensive rehab in the Center's Pediatric Medical Rehabilitation Unit (PMRU). He watched him relearn the basics, from brushing his teeth to taking his first steps the second time around in his life. He's laughed at the young man's unbridled humor, steadied Aaron as his steps became shaky, and stood proud while attending his Eagle Scout Court of Honor award ceremony, an honor Aaron earned after completing his portion of the barriers trail.
Gray now enjoys watching Aaron speak to children about riding ATVs safely through testimonials presented by ATV Ride Safe Oklahoma, an initiative between The Children's Center, The Trauma One Center at OU Medical Center and Oklahoma State University 4-H. The program emphasizes safety, injury prevention and training through the proper use of four-wheelers.
"Bullock's Barriers" chronicles Aaron's dramatic progress at the Center and the resulting achievements of his determined efforts toward recovery.