Expedito "Pedro" Lugo, whose near fatal beating alongside Patterson Park last month drew attention to rising violence among students in Southeast Baltimore, has regained consciousness and was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital yesterday.
Mr. Lugo's skull was fractured when he was beaten with a baseball bat on May 17, leaving him unconscious and on a life support system at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
In the first weeks, his older sister, Maria Ramona Arias said her family feared that her brother would never open his eyes again.
But nine days ago, Mr. Lugo, 24, crossed that threshold. Mrs. Arias and her mother, Leocadia Lugo, were in Mr. Lugo's hospital room, where they had been keeping a near constant vigil since the attack.
As had become her practice, Mrs. Arias was speaking to her brother about daily family happenings and imploring him to wake up -- even though she had no way of knowing if he could hear her.
Suddenly, Mrs. Arias said, "He woke up. He opened his eyes and tried to talk, but he had a tube in his throat. I told him not to talk. I told him he was going to be OK. I told him that God gave him his life back."
Her brother smiled at her, she said. "Then he started crying because he has never been in the hospital, and he didn't want to stay there."
Yesterday, after his condition was upgraded to fair, Mr. Lugo was transferred to the Montebello Rehabilitation Hospital.
Dr. Daniel Drubach, director of Montebello's traumatic brain injury unit, said that the injury to the left side of Mr. Lugo's brain has left him nearly paralyzed on the right side of his body and with an impaired ability to speak and comprehend.
Dr. Drubach said the next weeks will be crucial to Mr. Lugo. If damaged brain cells are to repair themselves, they usually do so shortly after the injury.
The extent of that regeneration, the doctor said, will determine how successful Mr. Lugo's recovery will be.
Dr. Drubach added, however, that some permanent brain damage seems a certainty.
Four teen-agers, ranging in age from 13 to 19, were arrested in the beating of Mr. Lugo and charged with assault and assault with intent to murder.
According to police reports at the time of the incident, Mr. Lugo was leaving Patterson Park when he was surrounded by a group of teen-agers who demanded his baseball bat. When he asked for it back, police said, the group began kicking and beating him.
The attack focused attention on neighborhood complaints about bands of Hampstead Hill Middle School students, attacking and intimidating bystanders on their way home.
The complaints, voiced to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke at a community hearing, prompted the replacement of the school's principal and the staggered dismissal of students from the school.