He’s also shown extraordinary progress, such as picking up Tagalog from Filipino therapists while he rehabilitated at Learning Services.
“His brain’s trying to repair itself now,” Will Senior says. “It’s shooting off signals, like if you shoot off a call on your cell phone and you’re waiting for someone to answer on the other end. That’s kind of what’s going on with his arm. [At first,] he couldn’t move his left leg or his left arm at all because the right side of his brain was shot. Now it’s starting to rewire, and he’s starting to get a little bit of movement. So that’s a really positive sign.”
“The part of my brain that’s affected is supposed to be about impulse and inhibiting emotions and stuff,” says Will, “so I should be a total wreck and screaming all the time, and having Tourette’s but I haven’t had that at all. I have had trouble with inhibiting thoughts; like, I’ll hear a song from a show and it’ll be revolving in my head for three days. My pragmatics have been a little off; I’ll cut people off or interject. But it’s all good. I feel strong mentally, and I try to exercise it a lot, thinking of ‘what year was I born,’ and trying to think about it with a…a…”
Will trails off. An exhausted, distant look comes over his face.
“You lost your train of thought there,” Will Senior says, chuckling empathetically.
“Yeah,” says Will.
We talk about Bukowski books and Tarantino movies for a minute before Will says, “I remember the word I was thinking of. Strategies. I’m always trying to think of new strategies to remember things, to bring things up in my head that I’ve lost.”
At this point, Will has been sitting in his wheelchair for seven days straight.
“This kid needs tons of physical therapy,” Will Senior says. “Marie’s been hashing through the system, trying to get it all rolling again. It’s just a shame that you can be in a facility where you’re making progress and then you just run out of real estate with the insurance. They bounce you out into the real world. You have to scoop it up on your own and get funding. That’s what the fundraisers are all about, to keep pushing Will in that direction and get him going again.”
A therapist from Learning Services arrives a short time later to give Will his first session since he was discharged. The family is paying for his services out-of-pocket and with proceeds from previous fundraisers, but stopping therapy now is out of the question. The therapist believes he can get Will walking again. In the meantime, Will continues painting with a brush attached to a tongue compressor. He’s already plotting to get back on his skateboard.
“I’m stoked to hang out with my chick from San Francisco” — he smiles, though he is clearly very tired — “to hang out with all my friends, go to the beach, drink beer after a year or two. Just live a normal life, you know? I’m really excited to feed myself, drink water on my own, use my iPad, try to mob around on a cruiser.”
Will adds with a laugh, “I have to be a hesher for the rest of my life.”
Note: There will be a fundraiser for Will Barton at Fifty Seven Degrees wine bar (1735 Hancock Street; Middletown) on Sunday, May 19, 3:00–6:00 p.m., featuring live music by Zbonics (Zak Najor of the Greyboy Allstars).
Donations to help the Barton family offset medical costs should be sent to the “Friends of Will Barton Fund” at Chase Bank, 1740 Rosecrans Street, San Diego, 92106.