Ten years later: Brian and Sylvia Ellsworth share Mason’s journey
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Brian Ellsworth remembers July 23, 2008 well. At approximately 3 p.m., he was on the phone with a supplier, getting ready for the school year rush at Ellsworth Music.
When another call came in, he took it, learning there had been a car accident on Old Country Club Road, and the side windows of the vehicle said “Ellsworth.”
“I drove there,” Brian said. “The ambulance was there and they had Mason on a stretcher. The police wouldn’t let me get near him, and it took a while to find out where they were taking him.”
Mason, the 18-year-old son of Brian and Sylvia Ellsworth, had suffered a traumatic brain injury when his vehicle collided with a dump truck.
Ten years later, it is still a journey that Brian and Sylvia recall in vivid detail.
“He was taken to Jefferson Memorial, but there were thunderstorms and he couldn’t be flown out,” Brian said. “The chaplain at Jefferson convinced the Maryland State Police to fly him; otherwise, he wouldn’t have made it. They flew him to Baltimore Shock Trauma in the state police helicopter.”
Once at Baltimore, Mason went through over 20 surgeries, addressing injuries around Mason’s head and brain. Along with the head and brain injuries, Mason was in a coma, and had one minor broken bone in his lower back.
For Brian and Sylvia, the first 72 hours in the hospital waiting room were torture. They were joined there by Mason’s friends, Ashley Kressin and Anika Redden, who created a Caring Bridge blog site to share Mason’s progress.
Although Mason will never fully recovery, his family continues to update the Caring Bridge blog on his progress. On the 10-year anniversary of Mason’s injury, Brian left a commemorative blog post, in recognition of the value the blog site held for Mason’s friends and family.
“Fortunately, Mason’s best friend Anika and his then-girlfriend Ashley were with us, and they totally embraced the idea of ‘blogging’ I guess you would call it. They did all of the writing for a while, they were good writers and they were funny, while communicating about what was a truly horrific event with friends and family,” Brian wrote on July 23, 2018.
Mason remained in a coma for approximately four months, and was moved to Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Clinic in Malvern, Pennsylvania during that time. Over the next year, Mason underwent more surgeries in Baltimore.
On Dec. 25, 2008, Mason woke from his coma, and in Jan. 2009, he spoke his first words, “Hi Mom,” to Sylvia. A year after the accident, on July 28, 2009, Mason came home to Shepherdstown, and a new normal began for the Ellsworth family.
“Most people don’t understand traumatic brain injury — you end up a different person,” Brian said, mentioning Sylvia is Mason’s caregiver. “Sylvia does everything. Mason is 100 percent assist, and Sylvia is the most considerate person I know.”
Since he woke from his coma, Mason has traveled twice with Sylva to the Neuroworx Rehabilitation Clinic in Utah, a brain and spinal cord injury facility Shepherdstown Physical Therapist Chris Horowitz recommended, according to Brian.
Although Mason will never be the same person he was before the accident, he continues to gradually recover his memory, Brian said.
“It took two years for him to talk,” Brian said, mentioning Mason now always has a smile and joke to share. “His way of coping is to make people laugh.”
Mason has found many ways to express himself artistically since the accident. Five or six years ago, he began painting with his mother, and is also using music therapy to heal.
“Now he’s very active. He has had several art shows. He also does music. His right side is still weak, but he plays keyboard,” Brian said. “He works with music therapists at Shepherd, and works with a vocal teacher as well.”
Brian said he is thankful for the support of the local community and Mason’s medical professionals. To follow Mason’s journey online, visit www.caringbridge.org/visit/masonicyouth.