LUBBOCK, TX - Thursday marks one year since 10-year-old Luke Siegel's life changed in a golf cart accident in Lubbock. A year later, he and his family have endured a whirlwind journey full of medical and emotional hurdles. The road ahead is far from easy for the Siegel family, but it's lined with promise-- both with Luke's progress and with efforts to bring about change after his accident.
On July 28, 2015, Lubbock Police reported that Luke and his friend were riding in a golf cart in South Lubbock at a high rate of speed, driving in circles around a cul-de-sac. Witnesses said the golf cart tipped over. Luke was taken to University Medical Center for treatment where his family learned that Luke had gone into cardiac arrest and suffered severe brain damage. Luke remained at UMC for several weeks before heading to Cook Children's hospital in Fort Worth for treatment. Doctors told Luke's family members that he would likely not be able to speak or move for the rest of his life.
In January, Luke was able to return from Cook Children's and has been living in his family's home in Lubbock since then. He and his family are shuffling in and out of appointments all the time.
Luke and his family spent Thursday in Dallas attending a basketball game for his older sister. EverythingLubbock.com caught up with them on Wednesday as they reflected on the past year:
"It's important to know that in half a second something can change your life forever, and my son who was the biggest baseball, biggest sports fan in the world will never be able to play sports again," explained Tim Siegel, Luke's father. "More than anything I just want to communicate with him."
Tim explained that while they can't tell how much Luke understands, they know that he can understand enough to move on command. His therapists have worked with him daily and recenly have had success in getting Luke to move his trunk and to play with baseballs or toys on command. Recently Luke has also made more progress with swallowing.
Several days ago, Luke did something his family was especially excited about:
"He had this sound as if he was laughing, we don't know for sure if it was a laugh, regardless of whether it was a laugh or if he was hurting or was crying, it was a new sound and that's important to us," Tim said. You can see the video of what Tim was talking about here.
Many people have been following all of these milestones for Luke, as of Thursday, the "Pray for Luke Siegel" Facebook page had over 27,000 likes.
Tim explained that he hopes to use that platform to reach other parents. He shares his experiences there, in part to inform those who care about their family but also to be a resource to other families who are supporting someone with a traumatic brain injury.
Tim recalled getting the phone call that afternoon last year about Luke's accident. He explained that days prior to the accident he had spoken with his children about golf cart safety, but he wishes now he had been more emphatic. Now, Tim is taking steps to become an advocate for golf cart safety.
"When we were told he was in an accident, we didn't realize it wasn't actually a golf cart, it was actually more of a four wheeler, those things its so different," Tim explained. "Parents need to be more educated on what they've bought."
Tim has been doing plenty of research on golf carts and golf cart safety. He believes that parents should be in golf carts with their children, and he also sees room for policy reform when it comes to golf cart safety-- perhaps in raising the age of those who can drive them.
"I've reached out to our new mayor, I look forward to meeting with him and meeting with people in town to try and do whatever I can to help children and help parents learn what they're really dealing with," he said.
On a day-to-day basis, Tim said that caring for Luke has been taxing, full of emotional highs and lows. He and his wife try to balance meeting Luke's busy schedule with the needs of their other three daughters.
Tim is a coach at heart, he was the head men's tennis coach at Texas Tech and in the fall he will pick back up with his position coaching at Lubbock Cooper. He loves coaching his son through this recovery and said that it will be hard to be away from Luke for longer periods of time as he heads back to work.
Tim said there are two things that keep him motivated: the outpouring of community support and prayer for his family, and Luke's tenacity in the recovery process.
"We have someone who is so determined, he is a mild mannered sweet caring little boy, who also has a comeptitive nature and that's been brought out," Tim said. "There's no doubt he's done some things because he doesn't want to quit, and I'm proud of that."
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