Tuesday, October 14, 2003

'Miracle child' returns to school

Acts as living lesson to many

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MASON - At times, 11-year-old Brooke Mattina wishes people wouldn't make such a fuss over her. The Mason Intermediate School sixth-grader is back in her neighborhood school for the first time in two years, since an August 2001 car wreck nearly killed her.

Brooke's survival almost did not include her right arm and a leg, both so severely damaged that she had to undergo 12 hours of surgery and, later, eight more operations - with another one scheduled soon - to save the limbs. She recovered in intensive care while enduring painful skin grafts. Then, in November 2001, Brooke was able to return home in a wheelchair, where she was tutored by Mason teachers.

The sweetly shy Brooke says she remembers how much it "hurt to watch the school bus go down the street in the morning" without her on board.

But now, finally free from a wheelchair and a walker, she is reveling in having returned to school Aug. 26 with her classmates and friends.

"I'm part of the group again," she says at school, as her classmates chatter busily about the day's assignment. "But sometimes they pay too much attention to me. I'm fine."

Her homeroom teacher, Dale Moberly, describes her as a "miracle child."

"She is such an angel, and I think she had a few looking over her during a remarkable recovery," said Moberly. "She has inspired all her classmates."

Her mother, Tracey Mattina, says her daughter's struggle continues, as do the family's mounting medical bills. But she marvels at Brooke's ability to "teach me something new every day about courage" while she continues her physical therapy and treatments.

"She shows me how to be brave," says Tracey Mattina, who is an emergency medical technician in Mason.

In school, Brooke's math teacher, Nancy Kelly, says the girl's very presence offers students and adults a chance to learn that "despite adversity you can still make it. She is very courageous."

Brooke says she is smarter, too.

"I've learned that a lot of people love me."

Firefighters raise funds for Brooke

Mason firefighters are hosting a fund-raiser Oct. 25 for Brooke Mattina. It will be 8 p.m.-midnight at the American Legion Hall, 401 Reading Road in Mason, and features food, live music, raffle drawings and door prizes. Proceeds will help the Mattina family with medical expenses from Brooke's nine operations, and one still to come.

Tickets are $12 or $20 per couple. To purchase tickets in advance, call (513) 284-7524. Tickets also are available at the door. Donations may be made at any Fifth Third Bank location to the Brooke Mattina Fund.

E-mail mclark@enquirer.com

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