Son. Brother. Friend. Student. Athlete. Hunter. Altar boy.
All of the above accurately describe 15-year old Kurt LeBlanc, but none fully capture his meaning to those who love and care about him.
To that list, another adjective must be used to describe the South Terrebonne Gators’ sophomore fullback: Survivor.
On the morning of Monday, Sept. 29, LeBlanc suffered a stroke in his brain stem, cerebellum, and left occipital lobe. He collapsed on the bathroom floor where his younger brother James found him.
“He had a seizure,” said his mother Lisa LeBlanc. “He was laying here completely covered in sweat and was foaming at the mouth. Two of his older brothers, Carl and Bryan, dragged him out of the house, put him in the truck and drove to Terrebonne General (Medical Center).”
After spending the day in the TGMC emergency room, Kurt was transferred to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans. The next day, doctors located where the blood clots occurred. On Wednesday he was transferred to Ochsner Medical Center where doctors performed a procedure to restore blood flow to the damaged areas.
“Him being so young, the doctors looked at other things before they diagnosed the stroke,” Lisa LeBlanc said.
Blood is flowing to the affected parts of Kurt’s brain, but doctors do not know yet the extent of the damage or how much brain function will return. They are also treating him for pneumonia.
The swelling in Kurt’s brain has dramatically subsided since its peak two weeks ago; however, he still cannot speak or walk on his own. A PEG feeding tube was inserted to replenish his strength as he does physical and speech therapy sessions.
The recovery process is long and arduous and not without complications.
Kurt had surgery again on Saturday to stop leaking around the PEG tube that caused fluid to build up around his liver and groin area. He has been sedated for the past few days, which pushed back his rehab schedule.
Doctors at Ochsner hope to discharge Kurt next week to a rehabilitation center.
“He would have morning and afternoon rehab to get him back as quickly as possible,” his mother said. “Being young and athletic and strong-bodied is supposed to be his advantage to get him back as quickly as possible.”
The entire Bourg community has rallied around Kurt and his family in this trying time.
St. Ann Catholic Church, where Kurt is an altar boy, is holding a bake sale at the 5 p.m. Mass on Saturday and at the 9 and 11 a.m. Masses on Sunday to raise money for his medical expenses. The church is located at 4351 Highway 24.
Students and faculty have constantly visited and sent get well cards to Kurt in the hospital. He even got phone call from his second period geometry class.
“The mother-in-law of one of his teachers, Mrs. Christy Gregg, is one of the respiratory therapists here,” Lisa LeBlanc said. “Being where we’re from, she mentioned her daughter-in-law’s name. I pulled out one of the cards that a lot of the kids at South Terrebonne sent and showed her daughter’s signature. She told her daughter the next day she got to meet Kurt, and the following day, Mrs. Gregg had the class call during class time, and they talked on the speakerphone.”
“He can’t talk right now, but you can tell he’s trying to talk because he was moaning and stuff,” said Jared Ledet, a friend and teammate of Kurt’s. “He was definitely trying to respond to us.”
The Gators dedicated their Oct. 3 victory over H.L. Bourgeois to Kurt. Starting with last week’s game against West Jefferson, the team began wearing a decal with his number 13 on their helmets.
“They’re always going to play to win, but his condition is something that’s always on their minds,” said Gators’ head coach Richard Curlin. “They’re constantly checking the Web site (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/ kurtleblanc), keeping up with that, going to visit him in New Orleans. Me and some of the coaches went visit him the last two Sundays.”
In retrospect, his family and doctors realize that the stroke Kurt suffered on Sept. 29 was his second in two weeks.
During the Gators’ first practice after returning to school on Sept. 16, Kurt told the coaching staff he had lost peripheral vision in his right eye. He was pulled from practice until he could be examined.
“He went to the doctors, but being 15 years old, even though what they saw on his MRI looked like a stroke, they didn’t go far with it because he looked absolutely fine,” his mother said. “The teachers can tell you he looked absolutely fine in the two weeks between (strokes). He was just mad that the coaches wouldn’t let him play football until they figured this out.”
Kurt did not play in the two Gator games prior to being hospitalized. Curlin planned to utilize him heavily in the Wing-T formation the offense runs.
“He was going to get a playing time this season,” Curlin said. “When I went over their Sunday, I said, ‘I know this is frustrating for you.’ Kurt is such an active kid and to be just laying in that bed, I know it frustrating as hell for him.”
Besides football, Kurt played baseball and basketball for the Gators last school year.
As the sixth of Lisa and Charles LeBlanc’s 11 children (six boys, five girls), Kurt has always played on a team with at least one of his brothers.
“His brother Carl (17) is a senior and is still at school. He has a younger brother James (14) who is right behind him,” his mother said. “They would always played sports together. He’s never been the only one for us to watch.”
“He’s a good guy and a really good friend,” Ledet said. “He’s smart; always made good grades. He had straight As. He never had a B on his report card. He never did anything wrong.”
Away from the fields of play, LeBlanc liked to hang out with friends, go deer hunting and partake in St. Ann Catholic Church’s youth group activities.
There are a lot of people praying for Kurt LeBlanc, hoping to help in his recovery.
He has already done more than some doctors thought he would at the outset, according to his mother.
Fifteen-year-old South Terrebonne sophomore fullback Kurt LeBlanc suffered a stroke on the morning of Sept. 29. Although on his way to recovery, the young athlete and straight-A student still cannot speak or walk under his own power. * Photo by KEYON K. JEFF