At age 16 Eddie Martin had it all: He was a National Honor Society student and a three-sport varsity athlete in football, hockey and baseball at Silver Lake High School in Kingston, MA. He was a playmaker—the go-to guy—and college recruiters were starting to take notice.

But on December 7, 2006, he and his teammates raced from the classroom to a friend’s car to head to practice. Last to arrive and the car already full, Eddie sat on the trunk for the short ride. It was a matter of seconds before he fell, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury.

A MedFlight helicopter took Eddie to Massachusetts General Hospital, where clinicians immediately placed a drain to remove fluids from around his brain and minimize swelling. Too fragile for the OR, they moved him to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), where they inserted a bolt in his head to help monitor pressure in the brain.

“We were struck by the remarkable calmness and focus of Eddie’s clinical team as they worked together to save his life,” recalls his mother, Karin. “But what we received was really total family care. Everyone kept us very involved, helped us understand what was happening, and taught us how to cope with this tragedy.”

For weeks, Eddie’s world remained a web of machines, tubes, fluids, medications and alarms, with a team of nurses caring for him around the clock. The family endured the painful uncertainty of their son’s outcome. If he survived, it was likely he would never speak or walk again.

In a final, desperate measure to relieve pressure to his brain, surgeons removed pieces of his skull, temporarily storing them in his abdomen. Eddie survived the operation. And on Christmas Eve, doctors brought Eddie out of his drug-induced coma.

No one was prepared for what happened next: Eddie opened his eyes, looked directly at his mother and said, “Mamma.”

Their son was back. “It was our Christmas miracle,” says Karin. “We knew then he would make it.”

Eddie began a rapid-fire recovery. Within days he was transferred to the general Pediatric Unit, where he thrived on a regular regimen of physical, occupational and speech-language therapy. He credits much of his subsequent progress to the clinical team that rallied to pull him through and helped him regain the basic functions he’d lost. And he also is grateful for the work ethic he had developed playing sports. “That’s where I learned to push myself to the limit,” he says.

Eddie transferred to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital for an expected three-month stay; he went home in just weeks and continued his astounding progress. Although the injury prevents him from ever playing contact sports again, he still worked out and practiced with his teammates, leading them from the sidelines. Eddie eventually returned to school full time, attended the prom, and graduated on time, with a 3.7 grade point average and an academic scholarship to Merrimack College, where he planned to study physical therapy.