October 6, 2012 was a big day in my life. It started early in the day… very early. On the night before, Friday October 5th, the club Gymnastics team I had just joined decided to host a get-together.. The classic beginning of year commencement where people become acquainted with one other, after all we were a team now.
I was a recent junior that 2012-13 school year, but was just joining the club gymnastics team. Anyone who is anyone at Miami is a part of Greek life. And if they aren’t a part of Greek life, they are part of a club or sports team of some kind that replaces the fratty/sorority scene. Either way you choose, you’re provided with a core group of people that help keep you sane throughout your college years. My first two years, I didn’t have any of that. I was never interested in being a frat guy, and I tried a club sport or two, but it never felt right. I had a few friends from the dorm with the same major, and we formed our own little group of people we hung out with. I was never really satisfied. My junior year was when I discovered the gymnastics club, and I fit right in. I practically lived on my trampoline growing up, and I began moving my flips to flat ground at the start of high school. I didn’t know much about gymnastics per’se – rings/bars/vault/pommel. However, floor had Hunter written all over it. I was doing all kinds of things on flat ground outside, and this was the same thing, but easier. Not only did I unknowingly discover my true passion, but I finally felt like I fit in at Miami. October 5th marked the first big step in building those relationships.
The party had died down, and my cousin and I had left to go to my friend’s apartment. The weather was horrible that night. I remember my cousin and I grabbing an umbrella from the house we were at because it was raining so hard. I only remember about a minute into our trek across campus, because after a few more minutes, I would be in a coma for over two-weeks. What I remember is snagging an umbrella leaning up on the side wall in the house. I hesitated because I wasn’t sure whose umbrella it was. Most of the people left at the party lived there, or were staying the night. I figured I could return it the next day when there were sunny skies. And if something happened to it, whatever – it’s just an umbrella. After grabbing the umbrella, I remember chatting in the pouring rain under the overhang. “This rain is super lame right now, man,” I remember saying to my cousin. “Well, what are we doing?” he asked. “Let’s go man,” I said. We reached the sidewalk, then boom – nothing – well some hazy visions of hospital personnel and family members, but that wasn’t until later – two and a half weeks later.
Apparently, my cousin, Nick, and I were crossing the street in a crosswalk with the umbrella over our heads. Nick was on the left, me on the right. Nick caught an SUV quickly approaching us with his peripherals and dove backwards. I was not so lucky. Nick was blocking my vision from the left. The SUV hit me head-on traveling at what was believed to be 53 mph (12:51 a.m. Saturday Oct. 6th). The fact in this incident was that I was thrown 176 feet down the road. Although my cousin was lucky enough to avoid injury, he held the burden of witnessing this tragic accident. The two of us had been very close for as long as I can remember, and he just witnessed what he believed to be my horrible death right in front of his eyes. He remained on the edge of the road in disbelief before finally running over to my corpse. He tried to describe the noises I was making, saying, “It was like a person trying to sip water through a straw from a cup that had only drops left.”
I was taken to the hospital in Oxford, McCullough-Hyde, however my condition was too poor for them to properly treat me. They struggled to keep me alive. McCullough-Hyde was a small hospital and didn’t have a proper means of caring for someone in my condition. Care flight was immediately requested for a transfer to a bigger hospital, Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton. Miami Valley is about 20 minutes away from my parents’ house. I was losing a lot of blood moving from hospital to hospital. Fortunately, the paramedics were able to keep my heart beating; chest tubes and blood transfusions were enough to get me to get me there. When I arrived at the hospital (3:41 a.m.), the doctor’s first priority was to stop internal bleeding. The Trauma surgeon cut my stomach open and found lacerated pancreas, bladder, and kidneys, collapsed lung, all ribs either broken or displaced, and a crushed spleen (which was the main source of the bleeding). Luckily, you can live without a spleen.
The trauma surgeon convinced the neurosurgeon to put off back surgery until morning. The next morning, the neurosurgeon found multiple severed vertebrae. He took his time and made sure to salvage all the nerves he could. What my parents were told would be a 3-4 hr surgery went on for 7 hrs, which is when my parents were told I was now a paraplegic.
On my father’s birthday (Oct. 20), I opened my eyes. Up until this point, it wasn’t guaranteed I would ever awaken. The good news was my TBI was not nearly as bad as it could have been, and there was no cervical spine damage. I couldn’t speak for several more days, and when I could, it was a very soft and scratchy whisper. It was a few more days until I actually knew I was awake and what was going on. I was on an all liquid diet for those first few weeks. When I later moved to soft foods diet I had a lot of difficulty keeping my meals down. I lost nearly 50% of my body mass by the end of my hospital incarceration – weighing 102 lbs at discharge from Rehab Institute of Chicago on January 10th, 2013.