Sam: The Boy Behind the Mask tells the true, heart-wrenching story of Sam Lightner. Born with a rare disfiguring growth that covers and distorts the left side of his face, skull, and neck--Sam is determined to live a normal life. For fourteen years, doctors refuse to operate on Sam, until an elite team of surgeons at Boston Children's Hospital undertake a risky thirteen-hour operation to remove the malformation. Sam nearly dies on the operating table, but survives, and returns home to begin his freshman year of high school. However, when doctors discover excess fluid around his brain, Sam slips into a coma, and is not expected to live. As the family and doctors begin to give up, one doctor--pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby--keeps believing, even as all hope seems lost. The only female in the boy's club of neurosurgery, Dr. Wehby is scorned for refusing to accept facts and for allowing her emotions--as a woman--to cloud her medical judgment. But she perseveres, staying by Sam's side, until he moves first a finger, then a foot, and finally, begins to interact with those around him.
Tom Hallman's Pulitzer prize-winning series on Sam Lightner in The Oregonian touched the city of Portland so profoundly that it generated more than ten thousand letters from readers. Now Tom Hallman takes us far deeper into the world Sam inhabits, encompassing startling and inspirational events up to the present day. A human story of hope in the face of tragedy, and the compassion to attempt the impossible, Sam: The Boy Behind the Mask shows how one boy--wanting nothing more than to be part of the regular world--is helped along his journey by medical miracles, and by the generosity of the human heart.
A movie flickers on the screen set up in front of the chalkboard, but almost none of the twenty-eight eighth-graders pay attention. Under cover of darkness, they talk about the plan for tonight, in restless teenage voices that bounce around the second-floor classroom at Gregory Heights Middle School in Portland, Oregon.
Their teacher looks up and clears his throat as a warning. The conversations continue at a whisper. Only one student, sitting in the last row--at five feet and eighty-three pounds the smallest in the class--remains silent. Sam Lightner never draws undue attention to himself. He moves like smoke. Perhaps it's because he didn't speak until he was four years old. He had to learn how to force air through the hole a doctor cut in his throat when he was born. All his life, people have assumed his silence meant he was retarded.
Sam's an excellent student, an honor student, already tackling high-school-level geometry. He's a keen observer, listening to ...
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