Only two months ago, Bradin Dingwell was an 11-year-old Renaissance boy: He read comic books, swam like a fish, had built a treehouse, was learning to play guitar and wanted to learn French.
But all of that changed in a single, terrible instant in May when he was hit by a car as he skateboarded on a quiet street in South Portland, Maine.
The accident left him with a traumatic brain injury that one doctor there predicted would leave him in a vegetative state for the rest of his life.
But yesterday, as he sat in a wheelchair at Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, his grandmother, Pamela Barnard, could see a glimmer of his old self when Batman, Spider-Man and a menagerie of other superheroes swooped into the children’s ward.
“When Bradin saw the characters, I could see him trying to focus on something of his past coming back to him,” Barnard said after the boy suddenly lifted his head, his eyes widening, as Batman said hello.
“They were wonderful, familiar faces,” she added.
Matches Malone, who has been playing the Caped Crusader for 24 years, said he instantly agreed when he was asked to visit.
“If you can distract someone in a situation like his, that’s nothing but positive,” said Malone, a member of CausePlay New England, a group of volunteers who dress up as characters for hospital visits and charity events. “These kids are the real heroes.”