SAXTONS RIVER — Neighbors of Todd Roy gathered Friday to celebrate his birthday and express love and support for the Holstein Association staffer, who is recovering in a Rhode Island hospital from a severe traumatic brain injury.
Roy, who turned 64 on Friday, fell down cellar stairs at a friend’s vacation home on Cape Cod on Aug. 17, almost four weeks ago. His head hit the concrete floor.
He was immediately airlifted to Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, R.I., the closest trauma center.
Roy is the chief data administrator for the Holstein Association in downtown Brattleboro, and his wife, Wanda Salter, is a well-known community leader and speech pathologist at the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union in Bellows Falls.
Longtime friends Heidi and Rob Lauricella of Saxtons River said the Salter-Roy family has lived in Saxtons River 26 years, and had raised their two children in the community.
He underwent immediate brain surgery to relieve the swelling caused by the fall, and progress has been steady but very slow. He is off the ventilator, and responds to some commands, such as squeezing a hand or giving a thumbs up.
“What is happening inside his head is pretty much a mystery,” Wanda Salter wrote earlier on CaringBridge, a website for families facing medical emergencies.
Family at his bedside
Their two children — Alice Salter-Roy and Timothy Salter-Roy, as well as Gabe Hakimoglu, who lives with the family, had rushed to his bedside. Because COVID-19 restrictions kept visitors to a minimum in the intensive care unit, Wanda Salter has kept her family and community informed via CaringBridge.
The Salter-Roy children had to return to their colleges, and Gabe to his internship at Chroma Technology in Rockingham, and to the family home “to hold down the fort,” Salter said.
The birthday party and vigil Friday for Roy held by friends and neighbors was impromptu, said Louise Luring, the former village president of Saxtons River, who organized the gathering.
She said people in the community were frustrated with not being to help the family more, since the hospital is in Rhode Island, and she said the gathering gave people an opportunity to show their support.
Gabe Hakimoglu attended Friday’s late afternoon gathering in the village park and blew out the candles on the dozens of birthday cupcakes people had brought. There was heartfelt singing of “happy birthday” from the 30 people present, and they posed for group photo for the Salter-Roy family.
Friends also created signs wishing Roy birthday wishes and a speedy recovery.
Former Air Force pilot
Roy is a former Air Force pilot, Rob Lauricella said, and has worked at the Holstein Association for many years.
“He is so smart, he knows so many things,” Rob Lauricella said. “He loves ‘Star Trek.’ He loves the Red Sox. We go to the movies at the Opera House and ‘triple-up’ together,” he said, he said, referring to the popular concession stand special. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and grew up in Fitchburg, Mass., his friends said.
He is also the administrator of the Saxtons River Facebook page, which is a “light-hearted page” that matches his personality, Heidi Lauricella said.
Earlier in the summer, the family had returned from a trip to Kenya, where Salter is establishing a school for autistic children. The family has traveled there before, and Salter travels there regularly, as well as raising money in Vermont for the school.
A plan to have him transferred to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., was put on hold over the weekend, as the family searches for a long-term acute care hospital closer to Vermont. Dartmouth-Hitchcock is not a long-term facility.
Helping hands in a small world
Amid all the anxiety and worry, there was good news on Saturday, Salter wrote in an email Monday. And it’s a thrilling “It’s-a-small-world-after-all” development for Vermonters.
While Roy was transferred out of the intensive care unit on Saturday, his wife said she was talking to his new nurse. He was originally from Vermont, Salter wrote.
“When I arrived for visiting hours this afternoon, a new nurse was coming on. His name is Will. We chatted for a few minutes as he was caring for Todd, and I mentioned that we’re from Vermont. Will said that he grew up in Vermont.”
“’Where?’” she asked.
From Saxtons River, replied William “Will” Harmon, Salter recalled.
“’So are we!’” she replied, sharing the hometown news.
“I feel so happy knowing that a Saxtons River ‘boy’ is looking after Todd,” she wrote in an email on Monday.
She told her CaringBridge community about the small-world connection on Saturday, a day after the community birthday party.
“What an extraordinary community! How fortunate our family has been to live in Saxtons River these past twenty-five years!” she wrote.