A 12-year-old Petaluma Little League pitcher faces a long summer of recovery after being struck square in the forehead by a line drive in a game last week.
Brendan O'Neill, who plays for EMG in the Petaluma National Little League, had successful surgery at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland Wednesday to repair his forehead fractured by the ball.
"The surgery went better than we had expected," said his father, Dennis O'Neill. "He will spend a few days in intensive care, and then we are looking forward to taking him home."
Brendan is expected to recover from his ordeal, but has already suffered one tough psychological blow.
"He can't ever play contact sports," explained his father. For the active and sports-minded Brendan, that means no high school football. "He's not happy about that," his father said.
Brendan was injured on May 8 while pitching at Carter Field, the Petaluma National Little diamond at Petaluma Junior High. He took a line drive right in the forehead, cracking his skull, bloodying his nose and causing both eyes to swell shut.
"Brendan is a long, lean kid and the kid who hit the ball has the same kind of build," said his father. "He (Brendan) just had no time to react.
"There is no blame here. No one is at fault. It was a good pitch and a good swing. What are the odds of a 3-inch ball hitting a 5-inch forehead? It was an accident, that's all.
"All in all, he is doing pretty well," Dennis O'Neill said. "What he loves best is when his buddies come to visit. That's when he really perks up."
Dennis and Brendan's mother, Leslie, have taken turns holding all-night vigils at Brendan's beside while the other tries to keep some semblance of normalcy for the other three O'Neill children — Ellie, a sophomore at Petaluma High School; William, an eighth grader at Petaluma Junior High and elementary school age Annie.
All are athletic. Ellie is a jumper for the Petaluma High track team. William competes in several sports for Petaluma Junior High and plays Junior Little League and Annie plays softball for the Steal Breeze.
O'Neill said he has no intention of asking his children to curtail their sports activity. "I can't stop being a parent," he said. "I'll worry, but I love watching them compete. Sports are important. They teach life's lessons."
The father has been a firefighter/paramedic for 19 years and volunteers as the sideline medic for the Petaluma High School football teams, so he is used to sports injuries.
But this one was personal.
When I went out there after Brendan got hit, I wasn't going as a paramedic, I was going as a father," he explained.
The umpire behind the plate for the game was Jim Gallagher, who is also a paramedic. "I let him take charge," O'Neill recalled. "He did a great job. Everyone responded very well."
And, people are still responding.
"Petaluma is fantastic," said O'Neill. "Our cupboards and refrigerators are full from food people have dropped off and we really appreciate everyone's prayers and thoughts.
"People have been great. I happened to mention to someone we needed paper towels and when I got home there were three rolls at the front door."