Mom stays by injured son's side


Published: Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 18, 2008 at 11:40 p.m.

Jenean Platt has been at Shands at the University of Florida nearly 24 hours a day for the past week, sleeping in chairs or wherever she can find some space.

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Platt

But the uncomfortable accommodations don't bother her. The only thing on her mind is her 19-year-old son, who hasn't taken a breath on his own since Jan. 10 and has remained so sedated that he doesn't yet understand his left leg had to be amputated below the knee because of an accident along State Road 100 in Keystone Heights last week.

"My biggest concern is how, mentally, he's going to handle this, since it wasn't even his fault," Jenean Platt said of her son Thursday. "He's got a strong will, but things like this tend to make people bitter."

Louis Platt V, 19, was riding a Kawasaki 1200 motorcycle west along SR 100 near County Line Road on the border of Clay and Putnam counties Jan. 10 about 3:20 p.m. when the crash happened. His family said he was on his way to pick up his brother, Derek, 16, from school.

According to Deputy Michael Layne, a traffic homicide investigator with the Clay County Sheriff's Office, a pickup traveling east along SR 100 made a left-hand turn in front of Platt's motorcycle.

"He was turning into a driveway and didn't see the motorcycle," Layne said of the pickup driver, Dennis Santiago, 43, of Keystone Heights.

A witness who saw the accident, Becky Barwick, said she was sitting alongside SR 100 waiting for her daughter's school bus to arrive when she saw Platt's motorcycle hit the truck. She said it looked as though Platt wasn't traveling more than 45 mph along the 60 mph road, but that he didn't even have time to brake before slamming into the truck.

"He never seen it coming," Barwick said. "The truck was going to turn into a driveway, but he didn't turn his blinker on or yield to turn. And then he didn't even go and check on the boy. Never after he hit that boy did he try to go help him."

Barwick said she saw Platt fly off his motorcycle and strike two mailboxes before landing in a ditch. She said she was one of the only people who would go near Platt because he was so badly injured.

"At first he didn't know what happened, and then he realized he had been in an accident and he went into a state of shock," she said. "I just held him until the ambulance came there to get him. It was terrible. I'll never forget it."

Layne said Platt was flown by ShandsCair to Shands at UF immediately after the accident.

"The at-fault driver was cited for failure to yield the right-of-way, and his proof of insurance wasn't current," Layne said.

Layne said he has worked many accidents that involve motorists who simply don't see an approaching motorcycle.

"It is fairly common," he said. "Most of the crashes we seem to work are the motorcyclist's fault, where they're rounding a corner too fast or something. But if we have a crash that involves a motorcycle and a car, typically the car doesn't see the motorcyclist and crosses their path."

Since the accident, Platt has been in and out of surgery - for a ruptured spleen, for his crushed lower left leg, for a nearly collapsed lung - and all the while, Jenean Platt has been there worrying about how her son will cope with his situation once he fully wakes up.

"They said if he hadn't been wearing his helmet, he'd be dead," she said.

Doctors at first thought there was a chance they might be able to save Platt's leg, and they planned to wake him up to ask him if he wanted to try to save it. But his mother said that plan was eventually abandoned.

"At some point, I guess on Sunday, the orthopedic surgeon that was taking care of Louis' case said this is life over limb at this point," she said. "There's no point waking him up."

So Jenean signed the consent form, and Platt's leg was amputated below the knee on Tuesday. If infection sets in, he could lose the rest of it.

Jenean Platt said she has already been terminated from her job at a doctor's office in Keystone Heights because of the time she has spent at the hospital, and she worries that the family's Medicaid insurance may not cover the cost of a prosthetic leg for her son once he is able to be fitted with one.

But she says she just takes it one day at a time. On Friday, Platt went in for more surgery to remove debris from his partially-amputated leg in hopes of saving his upper leg, and doctors were encouraged by the fact that his fever was lessening.

But they had also hoped to remove the intubation in his throat that is helping him breathe, but because of swelling, doctors told Jenean they may have to perform a tracheotomy to keep him breathing.

And all these complications will most likely delay his possible move out of the intensive care unit that doctors had hoped would happen Monday.

Jenean Platt said she has no plans to leave the hospital any time soon. She said she will stay as long as they let her.

"Until (Louis) says 'Mom you're bothering me, go away,' '' she said with a smile.

Alice Wallace can be reached at 352-338-3109 or alice.wallace@gvillesun.com.

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