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Journey home: Friends, neighbors welcome McKinney High student after accident
Photo courtesy of erikclausen.com
- McKinney High School senior Blake Hutto is welcomed by friends, neighbors and family in his neighborhood on Dec. 28. Hutto was injured in a car accident in September that left him in a coma.
Four months after a car accident left 16-year-old Blake Hutto in a coma, he and his family pulled up the driveway to their McKinney home Dec. 28. But they were far from alone.
Met by members of the McKinney High School marching band at the entrance of their neighborhood, the Hutto family received a royal welcome home, one that parents Chad and Ginger said they weren't sure would ever happen. They were overwhelmed to see the street lined with people holding signs and cheering them on, all eager to congratulate the teen for his perseverance and recovery.
"Pulling into the neighborhood was surreal," Chad said. "We did not know if we would ever bring him home again, and being greeted by all of our friends, family, neighbors and high school coaches was amazing."
Local businesses and the high school community have rallied around the family since Blake was severely injured in the late-September car accident. The unbridled support allowed the Huttos to focus on their son's recovery instead of on mounting medical bills.
Neighbors and strangers coordinated a fundraiser for the family in late October, partnering with two McKinney-area Chick-fil-A restaurants that donated 15 percent of their sales from one day to help offset the Huttos' expenses.
In addition to Chick-fil-A Day, neighbors donated all proceeds from a community garage sale for the family. Members of the church in Prosper near the intersection where the accident occurred held a candlelight vigil for Blake, an event that collected prayers from people the varsity track and swim-team star had never met.
"The fundraiser that Chick-fil-A did was amazing mainly due to the fact that a local business joined with hundreds of local residents to support a common cause," Chad said. "[Coming home] was a similar feeling. We are very grateful."
Blake's road to recovery wasn't easy. Though at one point his eyes opened and intentional movement returned, he was technically still in a coma, making it hard to tell what the future held, Chad said.
"He didn't open his eyes for a solid month; he was completely comatose," Chad said in October. "When he finally opened his eyes, that was huge. It took doctors another week after that to try to determine if he was seeing anything. We know there's brain damage in certain areas, but every patient is different."
Blake was first taken to Select Specialty Hospital in Carrollton - an acute care facility for patients out of intensive care but not well enough for a rehab facility -before his discharge. Blake's parents were by his side from day one, monitoring his state and waiting for the next sign of progress, but also missing work and putting life as they knew it on hold.
They thought Blake would be on a respirator the rest of his life, but that was removed two weeks after the accident. Soon, his tracheotomy was capped, allowing him to breathe on his own, and leading to another milestone: eating his first solid food - pudding and applesauce.
"It was thrilling to see him take a bite of pudding, but he could only take a few bites," Chad said. "He still had his tracheotomy in, so they had to make sure it goes into his stomach and not his lungs."
At Select, Blake began talking in complete sentences, a remarkable feat considering doctors said he would have to relearn how to speak much like a newborn, Chad said.
"He seems to have all of his vocabulary and long-term memory from prior to the accident," he said. "He does speak slowly but very clear. He still has some short-term memory issues, but they seem to be getting better, as well."
Blake left the Carrolton hospital a couple of months ago and was transferred to Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation in downtown Dallas. During that time he was able to have his tracheotomy and his feeding tube removed, and he quickly gained back most of the 40 pounds he had lost. Over those seven weeks, he worked for three to four hours a day with a speech, occupational and physical therapist.
He continued to progress, but due to insurance demands, it was time to go home, Chad said. Now, Blake is participating in outpatient therapy for six hours a day at Pate Neuro Rehab in Anna.
Four months after the accident, Blake is eating on his own, talking and doing other simple daily tasks often taken for granted, Chad said.
"He is not yet walking alone," he said. "He can walk with assistance with his balance. His strength is fine, but he does not have the coordination or balance yet."
Neighbor and professional photographer Erik Clausen captured Blake's homecoming through his lens, and though he did not know the Huttos personally, his daughter is friends with Blake's younger brother, Logan. The homecoming - organized by a good friend of Blake's - was bittersweet for Clausen, as it reminded him to count his blessings and that, despite what people might see on the news, there's still compassion in the world.
"Being a father of three beautiful, healthy children, I was overcome with mixed emotion watching a neighborhood rally around this boy and his family, and then watching a father helping his son into a wheelchair, something no father should have to do, but he happily did," Clausen wrote on his blog. "All in all, I left with a joyous feeling. It was a homecoming. A family was reunited and began a new season in life. And witnessing the outpouring of love and support from his friends and strangers alike, I couldn't help but think that there is hope for us yet."
While their journey is ongoing and there are still many unknowns in terms of Blake's future, Chad said coming home was exactly what his family needed.
"Blake is doing great at home. For the first time in four months, we are all home together in the evenings," Chad said. "Blake leaves for rehab in the mornings at 8 and comes home at about 4. Ginger and I have been rotating time at Pate watching his therapy, but this has allowed us much more time during the days to work our jobs."
To view photos from Blake's homecoming, visit www.erikclausen.com/blog/2012/12/blake-hutto-comes-home/
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