Told to expect the worst after the accident, Aaron Tobias wasn’t sure his son Caleb Tobias would make it. Now, three months later, Aaron said he’s starting to see key parts of Caleb’s personality come through.
Caleb faced the most severe injuries after a Ford SUV T-boned the sedan he was riding in on his way to school with his mom, siblings and the exchange student his family was hosting. In all, the traffic accident near Clearwater on March 6 injured nine people.
After eight surgeries — some unexpected — the 13-year-old made the move to the Madonna Rehab Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska, a facility that specializes in traumatic brain Injuries and other complex medical care. There are a couple of surgeries in the near future for Caleb to begin the process of facial reconstruction, but the most risky surgery, an operation to separate his brain from his sinus cavity, is behind him.
Based on the Rancho Los Amigos Scale for recovery classification, Caleb is currently at a Level IV or the Confused, Agitated Response stage. One of the symptoms at this stage is removing medical equipment. The scale, from Level I to Level VII, puts Caleb toward the middle of his recovery process, but the timeline remains uncertain still.
“It’s a marathon that you don’t really know where the finish line is, if there even is [one,]” Aaron said.
Despite the uncertainty, Aaron said he has watched Caleb defy many odds and expectations so far, something he attributes to the outpouring of prayer and support from their family, friends and even strangers.
When the road to recovery began, doctors told Caleb’s parents they had never seen someone with an MRI as bad as Caleb’s recover. Aaron said experts advised them to disconnect the ventilator because Caleb was “given zero odds.”
“It’s unbearably hard sometimes, but we look at the big picture,” Aaron said. “We look at where he was 12 weeks ago and holy smokes, I was told 12 weeks ago that my son wasn’t going to survive.”
As startling as this situation has been for the Tobias family, Aaron said everyone has been doing their best to look at the big picture.
“First and foremost, we are guided by our faith and we trust that God has control. Despite the difficulties, he’s going to get us through this,” Aaron said. “We have a limited amount of energy to expend and if we spend that energy on something unproductive like anger then we are denying our son that energy for recovery.”
Even now, Aaron said parts of Caleb’s personality are peaking through. Once a young man with a heart for service and a large vocabulary, Aaron said he’s still surprising people with how polite he is. Though he’s confusing words and sometimes saying things that don’t make sense, he still seems to be “cognizant of what those around him need,” Aaron said.
“We see flashes of him coming through and it’s just awesome to see,” Aaron said.
Caleb’s mom, Kim, also endured critical injuries, but returned home after 23 days in the hospital, according to a Caring Bridge site. Didrik Ytrehus, the exchange student from Norway, faced critical injuries as well, but was able to attend Clearwater High School’s prom and broke a personal record in the 1-mile run at a track meet on May 6, just two months after the accident. Morgan Tobias, 14, was treated for injuries, but is back to driving and played spring softball.
“We’ve been so blessed by the outpouring of support and love,” Aaron said. “I can go on and on, but it’s been absolutely amazing.”
A GoFundMe page called “Help the Tobias Family Heal” was posted by Aaron to help pay for expenses that insurance won’t cover.
Additionally, friends are holding a raffle for a 1984 C4 Corvette donated by Caleb’s great uncle Curtis Tobias. Money from the $20 raffle tickets will go to Caleb’s medical fund and to pay other unexpected costs.
“We wanted something that we could make sure that 100 percent of what we brought in could go back to the family,” Michelle Snell, family friend and fundraiser organizer, said.
Friends and family have been taking the car to car shows and special events to sell raffle tickets.
There will also be a few pop-up events around the Wichita-area. On July 4, the fundraiser will be in Lyons, Kansas. There will also be a car showing on July 6 at the Celebrate Clearwater event.