After a fight for his life, an Adair County teenager returned home to the community that has rallied for his recovery for the past three months.
A then 16-year-old Brice Starks was injured in a Polaris Razor accident on May 2.
When Brice first arrived to University of Louisville hospital, his lungs were crushed, his heart was bruised, he had three bruises on his brain and eventually a brain bleed on his right frontal lobe.
Now, Brice’s mother, Tori Starks, gives a very positive and grateful update this week since they’re finally back home as a family after three months.
Brice’s lungs are now 100 percent healed and so are any other physical injuries.
He is able to eat pureed regular food and is working on regaining the 40 pounds and muscle that he lost.
He is now in a conscious state. His mother said he is still hard to understand but he is starting to talk and put sentences together.
As for memory, Tori said he does remember family, friends and things before the accident. However, Brice still thinks it’s May and sometimes still thinks he’s 16 even though he turned 17 in June. Doctors told Tori that the time frame from the accident until around now, he won’t remember.
However, Brice delighted his family when he proved that he could still do simple math and read.
“I gave him two choices on a dry erase board and I said ‘what school do you go to?’ and I wrote down Adair on one side and Taylor on the other,” said Tori. “I didn’t read the answer to him. He pointed at Adair right away. I said, ‘buddy, can you read that?’ and he said, ‘Adair, Taylor.’ That’s when we realized he could read.”
Brice is not ready to walk, but he is practicing standing at rehab at T.J. Samson Community Hospital and is learning to sit up and balance. In addition to physical therapy, he receives speech and occupational therapies, too.
The big hurdle is working through the brain injury, because while his brain knows what to tell his body to do, his body isn’t ready to do it yet.
Thankfully, the Brice they know and love is already coming back to them, partly due to him being back home.
“We came home Thursday, and on Friday he laughed multiple times in a day. Every day he gets so much better and so much more like himself,” said Tori.
He has also shown them that his loving personality never left.
“Out of nowhere he said, ‘I love you, mama.’ Of course it’s drawn out. I said ‘I love you more’ and he said, ‘no, I love you more,’” said Tori.
On Thursday, Rhonda Loy organized the community gathering around town with cheers, waves and signs to Brice as he was passing through on the way home, and Traci Pooler had a banner waiting at Brice’s house when he got home.
His grand welcome home touched Brice deeply and Tori said Brice becomes emotional when it is talked about.
He wasn’t the only emotional one, as friends Briley Cox, Maggie Cox and Kinley Darnell shed many tears on the square when he came through.
“Our days just aren’t as fun without him here,” said Maggie.
“We’re just ready for him to be back,” said Kinley. “If anyone else was going to make it through, it was going to be Brice. We’re so proud of him and we’ve been looking forward to this day since it happened.”
Seeing friends and loved ones has been big for Brice, especially when he was reunited with his older sister, Savannah, and her boyfriend, Erwin.
“His sister hadn’t been able to see him at all since the accident. When she came home and as soon as he saw her, he started crying and reached his arms out for a hug. He was so happy to see them.”
Going forward, lots of rehab and a break from schooling is in store for Brice.
“We have to get him back, he’s got a lot of life to live.”
Tori reflected on how far he’s come since May 2.
“On the way to Louisville, the Chaplain would call every 20 minutes and say ‘this is urgent, how close are you guys?’ because they didn’t think he was going to make it. I just kept telling Chris to get me there, get me there, get me there. And now we’re here,” said Tori. “I’m so grateful.”
Chris, Tori, Savannah and Brice thank the community for the outpouring of love, prayers, support and donations and said they wouldn’t be where they are today without them.
“I know that prayers have directly affected Brice because there were two specific times in the hospital when the doctors had no explanation for healing. It was because people were praying for him, for that specific thing. We’re eternally grateful to every single person that had a prayer, word of encouragement or anything,” said Tori.
Brice’s aunt, CNA Jennifer Self, was generous enough to move from the Starks’ home state of Kansas to assist in her nephew’s recovery, and they ask for continued prayers for Brice as he embarks on this road ahead.
“Brice still has a long way to go,” said Tori. “It’s one day at a time.”
By Anna Buckman