“His condition is grave… He isn’t going to make it.”
On July 18, something happened that beat the odds, surprised everyone, and definitely made a lot of people very happy. It was the day that 16-year-old Zack Mitchell finally got to come home.
On May 22, Zack was in a four-wheeler accident.
He had been riding with two other friends, Kimmie Toler and Issac Hall. They all had plans on meeting some other people that were already in the mountains waiting on them.
The ATV ride was organized in celebration of Issac’s aunt for her birthday. Issac was riding with Zack on the ATV and Kimmie was on her ATV ahead of them.
A short while went by after Zack left his house with his friends, when his family got the disturbing phone call. Zack had wrecked.
Issac says “We were about half way there and Zack said that I would have to show him where we were meeting everyone. A couple minutes later, we were going by the church house and he looked off the road for just a split second. I had my head turned around figuring out how we could get back onto the road but then it happened. He hit the brakes and then we hit the tree.”
Zack and Issac both were wearing helmets; and many people and doctors says that if they hadn’t, they’d be dead.
Zack hit the tree and it threw both of them off. Issac hit the ground but the fourwheeler landed on Zack in the creek.
“I blacked out for about a minute then I came to. I couldn’t breathe at all. I looked over to check on Zack and he was crushed under the fourwheeler. His head was under the water and he wasn’t moving. I tried to raise up and push the air out of me but it took me a little bit but after that I could breathe again. I screamed at Zack but he didn’t respond. Luckily, some of my family members lived right across the creek and they were running to get over to him. I said that I was fine. They told me he was drowning.” Issac says.
“I was terrified. It didn’t look too good. The ambulance arrived and they turned him over on his side and they said there was no pulse.”
Just moments after this happened, Zack’s sister Andrea received the phone call about the devastating news.
“I was shopping for Bethanie’s fifth birthday party [Zack’s neice] in Beckley. They said he was being flown out and I panicked. I ran across the parking lot and people were starring at me but I knew I had to get to the hospital fast so someone would be there with him. It was a one hour trip, but I made it in about thirty minutes.” Andrea says.
One of Zack’s other friends, Hailey Massie, was supposed to go riding with them that day and was going to ride with Zack but she didn’t.
She says “I was supposed to go riding with them and I was going to ride with Zack but I asked my mother if I could go and she said no. She had a feeling like something was wrong.” Haliey says.
“I was scrolling through Facebook when I seen something I didn’t expect.” Zack’s girl friend, Tyleah Morgan, says. “Someone who lived close to him said they were flying him out to Charleston because he had been in a fourwheeler accident. I panicked. I just thought he would be awake when we got to the hospital that night… but I was wrong.”
After Zack’s family had all made it to Charleston to Charleston Area Medical Center, they were called in for a conference immediately.
“His condition is very grave… He isn’t going to make it.” Says a trauma unit doctor.
As you can about imagine, everyone was devistated.
“It just seemed so unfair that this was happening to Zack. He is such an amazing kid; but I knew God had a plan.” Says Brandi Cline, Zack’s former Youth Pastor.
“I cried for hours,” says Hailey, “I heard that Zack was going to die and I just couldn’t believe it. Zack and I had grown up together, friends since kindergarten and now he was going to die, I just lost it. I knew I had to have faith in God that he would make it because Zack is a fighter.”
Zack’s sister Andrea says “I couldn’t see myself looking at my brother in a casket and I just prayed to God every night not to take my brother. I knew I had to keep faith.”
From that night on, it was a roller coaster for his friends and family. Zack’s brain was swelled tremendously and he was not responding at all. Finally the next day, his right pupil showed some response but the pressure inside Zack’s brain had the doctors very concerned which is why they kept saying there was no hope. Two days after the accident, the doctors said they would have to do a crainotomy to release the pressure inside the brain.
Zack already had one brain surgery when he arrived at the hospital; he had a drain tube placed inside his brain to let the bleeding come out.
After long hours in the operating room, the crainotomy was over. It was supposed to relieve the pressure inside his head but the pressure kept rising. The next day came and they were literally at the last resort, another drain tube. If the drain tube didn’t work, Zack was gone. If it did, there would be a small amount of hope. At 9:31am on May 25, the surgeons put another drain tube in. His pressure dropped a lot. Even though this was a great sign, the doctors said his sodium levels were way too high and he couldn’t have any more medicine to keep him stable, so there was “little to no chance of him living.” they said.
Days went by and his pressures would drop steadily but then shoot back up out of no where. On May 28, the doctors said pneumonia had set in. Zack was still on life support and tons of medications to keep him in a coma; but, his brain pressure stayed down long enough through the night that they started to ween him from some of the paralytics. On May 29, Zack moved his arm and coughed. The next day, the doctors took Zack off of all his medicines expect the fluids and pain medications.
On June 1, Zack’s mother, Tereasa, heard what no mother would ever want to hear. She was asked, “Do you want to take him from the life support and let him go, or do you want to put a feeding tube in and a trache?” Tereasa said she was going to have the surgery for the trache and the feeding tube.
After the surgery, everything went great. On June 6, Zack started breathing on his own again. On June 11, he opened his eyes all the way and was moved from the trauma unit to the step down unit. On June 18, Zack was moved to the rehab floor and started rehab the next day. On June 21, Zack smiled.
On June 24, Zack wrote his name and age on paper then wheeled himself from therapy.
On June 27, Zack told his nurse “I want to go home.” On July 8, Zack ate real food for the first time. On July 10, Zack’s release date was July 23. On July 18, Zack was released to go home earlier than expected.
“Every time I visited Zack and seen such an imporovement, it’s really indescribable. I knew I was seeing a miracle take place. And to see Zack come home with little effects from such a terrible accident is nothing short of amazing.” Brandi says.
“God really does work miracles and Zack is a prime example and is living proof that God is Not Dead.” Hailey says.
On August 26, Zack goes back to the hospital to have the portion of his skull attached again.
Zack gets the privilege of being an honoree on the Westside Renegades football team this year thanks to Head Coach, Larry Cook.
“We just want to personally thank everyone for all the hard work and effort into everything they have done for Zack and our family. Everything from the car stops, bake sales, auctions, and selling t-shirts, and for all that came to welcome him home and showed love and support at the hospital. Thanks from the Mitchell and West Family.”
Nick Lawrence is a recent graduate of Westside High School.