Doug and Chris Downes have built a lifetime of memories with their Father-Son outings.
Early on, Chris decided he wanted to swing clubs. His whole family joined in, falling in love with the game of golf.
It was a warm August night, when they were heading south on I-25 from northern Colorado for a Father-Son golf weekend.
They never arrived at their destination.
A 24 year old driver struck their car travelling over 90 miles per hour. She doesn’t remember the impact; this was not her first drunk driving offense. Both cars flipped several times as they careened down a steep embankment.
When we got the call, it was grave. Doug had been thrown from the vehicle and they feared 16 year old Chris was brain dead. Debbie recalled the nurses voice, “Your husband and son have been in a rollover accident. I’m here with your husband, but your son is hurt pretty badly. You’ll want to get here as soon as you can.” Arriving quickly, she met Doug. They embraced and together, went to see their son.
The medical professionals gave no false hope; there was a strong likelihood Chris wouldn’t make it through the night. For three days and nights, Chris laid still in a medically induced coma, allowing the swelling to go down around his brain. A CT Scan revealed three different brain bleeds and fractures TNTC (too numerous to count.)
Debbie, Doug and their children, Rob and Pam, stayed with Chris around the clock, praying fervently. On the third day, Chris was brought out of the coma. Doctors asked, “Chris – if you can hear us, squeeze our fingers.” And, he did! The Downes rejoiced – Chris was alive!
The doctors cautioned, “Chris might survive. However, he would probably never live on his own and would most likely be wheelchair bound.” Debbie and Doug enthused, “That’s FINE! We can do that! We’ll still have our son!”
It was on Chris’s 3rd day in the hospital, when the Downe’s found respite at our Ronald McDonald House. Arriving on the front porch of our House that Love Built, Debbie said, “I couldn’t put into words what I felt.” I thought, ‘Wow. Is this for real? They’re going to help us?’ “It was like you were saying, ‘here – let me take this part of your heavy load.’ It was such a gift!”
Loving the Downes family well, staff and volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House and in the Ronald McDonald Family Rooms provided safe, comfortable spaces for their family to be near Chris, as studies show patients cope better and will often heal faster when their families are with them.
The remarkable way this family approached a terrible life situation, pressing in to their faith and one another was awesome to behold. Apparently, the feeling was mutual.
Debbie said, “Our family was overwhelmed by the kindness of those who were initially complete strangers. Staying at the Ronald McDonald House let us be with Chris, loving and supporting him as he fought for his life.”
And, fight for his life, he did. For forty days and nights, Chris remained in the hospital, working valiantly to simply put one foot in front of the other. He struggled for cognizant thought and then for the ability to express that which he was thinking.
Through surgeries, treatments and grueling intensive therapies, finally, Chris was discharged, to continue his healing in La Salle, Colorado.
Chris had always approached his life in a positive manner. His family is thankful the crash didn’t change that. Living with a TBI (traumatic brain injury) and losing sight in his right eye hasn’t stopped Chris’s drive. After arriving home in La Salle, Colorado, he sat in on a few of his high school classes. Deciding to take a final exam in Economics, Chris learned he had the highest score in his class!
His family credits his positive outlook, sense of humor and his faith as he continues to work towards, and meet, his goals. Graduating on time with his class from Greeley Central High, Chris now lives on his own and is a student at UNC.
While no longer able to play lacrosse, Chris is helping to coach the team. He enthusiastically said, “I love coaching even more than playing!”
To this day, medical professionals remain amazed by Chris’s fortitude and recovery — the fact that he can walk and talk, eat and breathe, drive and go to college is “miraculous”. We agree. The Downes ARE miraculous.
Debbie said, “So much of Chris’s healing, of our family’s healing, happened here, at the Ronald McDonald House, just steps away from Chris. The House was so peaceful and everyone was so kind-it was amazing and life-giving. You all took such good care of us, while the hospital took care of Chris. BOTH were needed and now, we have new friends! Thank You!”
Just recently, Chris picked up his clubs… he is swinging again. We couldn’t be happier. Press on, Friend!