Tragedies happen every day, but no one ever thinks it will happen to them.
“None of us know when it’s going to happen, or if it’s going to happen to someone you love, and it’s definitely life changing,” said Coupeville resident Solea Kennedy.
On May 9, Kennedy learned this lesson when her son Gabe was struck by a car in a hit-and-run accident that left him with catastrophic and lifelong injuries.
Friends and supporters are rallying around the family through online donations that will help cover the colossal costs of his medical care.
The accident occurred while Kennedy was crossing the street in the crosswalk in Reno, Nev., where he lives.
Kennedy said her son was on his way to go skateboarding with friends and fell a little behind. They told her that a minivan struck him and he flew more than fifty feet then rolled.
“He had multiple fractures and a head injury, and the driver just kept driving,” she said.
Gabe lost the lower half of his right leg and was in a coma for two weeks. He also had fractures in his right arm, left shoulder, clavicle and ribs. Doctors have told Kennedy that her son will need full assisted care for at least a couple years, and that they don’t think he’ll be able to return to his normal mental state.
“It’s kind of a long wait and see,” she said.
The driver, who turned herself in to the police about two weeks after the accident, had dropped something while driving and wasn’t paying attention when the collision occurred; she was afraid to deal with what had happened afterward, according to Kennedy.
“The community here was pretty outraged that someone would just drive off and leave someone on the road like that,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said Gabe’s future will include years in a rehabilitation facility. She’s hoping to move him to Washington soon and has been looking at rehab centers. She said he’ll probably end up in one in Seattle, because Whidbey Island doesn’t have the type of place he’ll need for recovery. However, she expects it’ll be at least another week or more before he can even be moved out of the Intensive Care Unit of the Renown Hospital in Reno.
“He’s lucky to be alive,” she said. “They (doctors) said most people would not have survived that amount of injury.”
Kennedy said she and the rest of her family hopes Gabe will be able to return to physical activities like snowboarding, his passion, but those require specific prosthetics, which are expensive.
The initial hope was that the driver’s insurance would be helpful, but Kennedy said her insurance only covers about $25,000, which is only a small fraction of the medical costs. Kennedy said that Gabe does not have insurance, and so they’ve set up a Go Fund Me account to try and get some financial help.
“It’s just like a support fund for whatever medical costs and other costs aren’t covered,” she said.
The goal on the account is listed as $25,000, but Kennedy said she picked that before she knew what all they would need. She’s looking into getting her son Medicaid, but that would only cover so much of the costs and so the fundraiser would cover everything else, including the special prosthetics they hope to one day get for Gabe.
As of Tuesday morning, the account had raised more than $23,000 for the Kennedy family.
“The support has been humbling,” said Kennedy. “I read all the messages that people put on there, I read them to Gabe, and I know that even if he doesn’t completely understand it now, down the road it will inspire him to fight to get well.”
Kennedy puts updates about her son’s healing process on the page so everyone can keep up to date on his recovery.
Now that he’s awake, Gabe is showing signs of mental awareness, is now able to breathe without a ventilator, is showing signs of movement and is even responding to jokes.
Kennedy said this event taught her “the important things are the people in your life, and that’s what matters.
“I count every day that he’s with us as a blessing.”
For those interested in donating money for Gabe’s recovery, or for more information, visit www.gofundme.com/955tg8.