PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) — Two years after an accident that caused traumatic brain injuries, Tallen Simpson, 7, is standing up on his own, learning to use a walker, and took part in the boot race after the Prescott Frontier Days parade on Saturday, June 30.
"Two years ago, they were praying for Tallen's recovery before the rodeo events," said Whitney Welch, Tallen's mother. "When we were at the rodeo last night, I wanted everyone to see how well he's doing, and know how much we appreciate all the prayers and support."
Tallen was injured June 29, 2010, after getting caught in a lead rein and being dragged by a horse while visiting his father in Willcox. Tallen was flown to the University of Arizona Medical Center's pediatric intensive care unit in Tucson where he was in a medically-induced coma for weeks recovering from major head trauma, multiple abrasions and brain swelling.
Tallen was then relocated to Hacienda Healthcare in Phoenix until he entered the rehabilitation program at Phoenix Children's Hospital, and eventually came home to continue his physical, occupational and speech therapy, Welch said.
On Monday night at the rodeo, Tallen enjoyed the flags, bull-riding, cotton candy, and all the people who came up to visit him, where he sat with Prescott Frontier Days General Manager J.C. Trujillo and his wife Margo, who have been "such good friends and so supportive," Welch said.
When Welch said the motorcycles may have been too loud for Tallen, Tallen shook his head, put out his hands like he was riding a motorcycle, smiled, and let her know that he liked the motorcycles, too.
"He's got a lot of friends at school who give him high-fives," Welch said.
In the next week, Tallen is looking forward to going to the movies and starting swim therapy, said Welch, noting that he likes swimming because he was walking in the pool on his own so well.
"They tell you that after six months to a year, that you don't see as much progress," Welch said, "But it's been much more than that, and Tallen is still making progress, and I hope that continues."
In January 2011, at Tallen's welcome home party, he was in a wheelchair and unable to sit up on his own. Now, Tallen walks with his mother in their neighborhood each night using his new walker.
Tallen continues to work on his fine motor skills and talking, but he understands everything going on around him and is becoming more himself each day, Welch said.
Each morning Tallen does his chores, helps feed the calf, brushes the horses, and plays with his dog Hank and his kitten Bar. "He loves being with the animals," Welch said.
A new saddle is being custom-made for Tallen, thanks to generous donations from cowboys and cowgirls across the country, including the Trujillos. It should be ready in October.
While Tallen continues to go to therapy, he also takes part in activities that are so important to boys his age, Welch said. For the past two years, Tallen has played t-ball in the Prescott Little League's Challenger Division.
"He loves baseball, and he's going to see the Diamondbacks soon," Welch said. "The families in the Challenger Division are so supportive, and the Prescott Little League players are so good and kind to our kids when they have games. It makes you feel so good."