Bentley Leslie spent his first nine years of life similarly to other boys. An outgoing child, he has always loved dogs, particularly the family’s red lab, yellow and one of her puppies which they kept. His favorite activities included swimming, baseball, soccer, camping, anything outdoors and Legos.

Everything changed in early June when Bentley was hit by a van. Although he survived the incident, it is uncertain if he will be able to resume a normal life.

“Everything keeps getting extended,” said Katie Leslie, Bentley’s mother. “We have a long road ahead of us yet. We take it day by day and are there for him; that’s all we can do.”

Katie and Mike Leslie and their children – Zoey, 14, Hunter, 11, and Bentley, 9 – have lived in Sauk Centre, Mike’s hometown, since 2018, and the children attend Sauk Centre Public Schools.

Bentley was on his way to play baseball with some of his friends June 1 this year; his sister Zoey was accompanying him to the ballpark. On the way to the park, Bentley was in the middle of a crosswalk when a van hit him from his left side and dragged him over 60 feet.

“I was working at home,” Katie said. “I found out by having two kids knock on my door to tell me that my son was hit by a car.”

Bentley was rushed to the trauma care unit Children’s Minnesota Hospital in Minneapolis. His injuries included a concussion, eye and back injuries, neurological damage, a hematoma on his left thigh and the loss of use of his left arm.

He was covered in wounds and lost three layers of skin; some of those wounds still have asphalt in them from the road. 

“He was on so much pain medicine that it was three days after the accident when he was actually with it enough to be able to have somewhat of a conversation,” Katie said. “He lost 18 pounds from the accident because he wouldn’t eat or drink.”

Although he was released from the trauma care unit June 11, Bentley’s summer has been one of nearly constant medical appointments in Long Prairie, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Minnetonka. He has wound care at CMH every Monday and Thursday, and he has to be sedated every time in order to tolerate it. He also has to undergo physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, vision therapy, counseling and more.

“We do roughly seven appointments every week,” Katie said. “Right now, we are at 68 appointments since June first, not including all the hospital appointments with doctors. Next week, we go see a new specialist because he’s not recovering from his eye injury. His wound care has been extended, and his back is not healing like it should.”

Bentley initially needed a walker until he regained his balance through physical therapy, but he still has not regained the use of his left arm. While both of his eyes can still see, they are out of alignment and cannot focus.

The concussion has resulted in balance and coordination issues as well as problems with mental focus. Bentley continues to undergo cognitive rehabilitation to relearn skills such as playing games and solving math problems.

At home, Bentley needs the help of his family to do everyday things like feeding and dressing himself. He cannot take a shower because of his wounds, so he needs to be washed by hand.

“I take him to the bathroom, give him his meds, do wound care at home if a bandage is falling off and things like that,” Katie said. “We do all that for him. He can’t reach the wounds.”

The psychological wounds, though, run deeper than the physical ones.

“He endured a lot of trauma,” Katie said. “Anything to do with cars scares him; he doesn’t like to walk by cars or be in a parking lot. He likes to be in our house because he knows cars can’t come in.”

Another psychological blow was the death of one of the oldest of the family dogs. Bentley was in the CMH trauma care unit when it happened, and his parents were recommended to not tell him about it out of concern for how it would affect him. When Bentley did find out, he took it hard.

Bentley’s siblings have been supportive of their brother through this time, whether they be getting him things he needs or helping him tie his shoes. Zoey has also been in counseling since witnessing the incident.

“It’s been hard on everybody,” Katie said. “Our whole lives have been changed. We’re months out from his accident, and things have not slowed down.”

The Leslies have also received support from the community. Nikki Vogt, one of their friends, set up a GoFundMe page under the name “Bentley’s Brave Journey of Healing” for the family to help with medical bills, gas and other related costs; the Leslies’ church, First Lutheran Church in Sauk Centre, is also taking donations to help them. The support has been a welcome relief, especially as the appointments have meant hours of missed work, insurance deductibles, denied medical services and over 8,000 extra miles on the road so far.

As school begins, the Leslies are working with SCPS to develop a learning plan that will fit Bentley’s schedule.

“He’ll be missing school for a minimum of two days a week,” Katie said. “We’re going to meet with the school to find out what’s our game plan because he can’t participate in physical education and he’s going to miss a lot of school for his appointments.”

While the lack of progress in Bentley’s recovery has been discouraging, the family hopes Bently will be on a path toward healing and recovery. In the meantime, it may be a while until Bentley can go back to the activities he loves.

“He can’t do the things he should’ve been able to do,” Katie said. “He can’t go on the boat, can’t go in the water, can’t play ball, couldn’t go on ride for the fair, can’t participate in normal activities, can’t do the things he should have been able to do as a 9-year-old boy for the summer. That was taken away from him.”

Mike and Katie are thankful for all the support and continued prayers for Bentley from the community as the road for recovery continues.