On the evening of Feb. 22, 2008, Drew Christy, a 2006 South Putnam graduate, struck a patch of ice on U.S. 40 east of Manhattan Road as he was driving home after completing a semester at Rose-Hulman institute of Technology in Terre Haute.
Drew sustained massive closed head and chest injuries in the crash. He was in a coma for four months, and doctors were not optimistic about his chances for survival, let alone recovery.
Three years later, Drew continues to improve, although the progress comes slowly.
"He's incredibly cognitive, seems to know and understand," Drew's father Mark said. "He still can't speak, still can't walk, tries sign language."
Drew has been taking speech therapy through Indiana University.
"We started late last summer," Mark said. "They're really strong at IU."
One test involved running a tube down Drew's nose to see his vocal cords, but this does not seem to be where the hang up lies.
"The problem is he doesn't have strength in his lungs," Mark said.
There are signs of progress on this, though. One of Drew's exercises involves blowing into a bottle of water with a straw. In August, he could only go for three seconds. It is now up to 17.
The family feels he will talk again and that he knows what he wants to say.
Drew has also made great strides on the mobility front. He can walk with the help of parallel bars, but lacks the balance to walk freely. His near mobility is encouraging and frightening to Mark and his wife Debbie.
"He has to have constant supervision," Mark said.
On New Year's Day, he gave his parents a big shock. Debbie had been in the basement with Drew while Mark was on the first floor cooking dinner. Debbie came up the stairs, telling Mark she was going to the second floor to change.
Minutes later, she rounded the corner to the basement stairs, and Mark heard a scream.
"When I got over, there was Drew at the top of the stairs," Mark said. He had used his power wheelchair to cross the basement, and then climbed the stairs using the handrails -- essentially a set of parallel bars.
"It's a tremendously large deal, one, that he can do it, and, two, that he did it," Mark said. There was a downside, though. "If he had slipped, it would have been a tremendously bad story."
Overall, though, the family is overjoyed at Drew's progress.
"It's exciting for us that he can work hard to do things he would have done before the accident," Mark said.
Two of the things that Drew especially enjoys now are his iPad and his bicycle. The iPad was a gift from funds raised by the Plainfield Junior Optimist Club. Mark said Drew uses it constantly, playing games, using the Internet and listening to iTunes.
"The iPad is everything to him right now," Mark said.
The bike is something Drew has been missing in the winter, but by riding a three-wheel recumbent bike, he can get both exercise and freedom.
"One thing he loves to do, weather permitting, is ride his bike," Mark said. "It's one thing he can do independently."
In good weather, they will ride on People Pathways and at the DePauw Nature Park a couple of times a week.
"That's a way he can do something athletically," Mark said.
As Drew's progress continues, the community also keeps supporting his efforts. This weekend, two benefits will take place for Drew.
On Saturday, Greencastle Christian Church will host the Exercising Hope benefit for Drew. The first session is from 9 to 10:30 a.m., and the second is from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Cost at the door is $15, and a T-shirt can be ordered at the event for $10.
Anyone with questions on Exercising Hope may contact Hannah Cline at (812) 241-8805.
The Exercise Hope Benefit Concert will take place at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at New Providence Baptist Church. It will be an evening filled with music from local bands, vocalists and speakers.
A love offering will be taken to help with Drew's medical treatments.
For more information, contact the church at email@example.com or 526-2462.
The family continues to be overwhelmed by the kindness the community has shown.
"We're just completely blown away," Drew's sister Kaila Harkins said. "They keep doing things. It's great for Drew because he loves to see his friends."
Mark sees it as Drew's involvement and care for the community coming back to him.
"Drew was a community guy before the accident, and, boy, has the community turned the favor around," Mark said.
With the help of his family and community, Mark still holds out major hope for his son. He believes walking, talking, returning to "normal" are in Drew's future. It just takes time.
"He's almost able," Mark said. "I think one day, one day, he will be able, but the brain heals so slowly."