'I look at life differently now': Train derailment victim's incredible road to recovery
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Months after Timmy Brodigan nearly died aboard an Amtrak train, the 16-year-old is taking incredible steps on his long road to recovery.
On December 18, Timmy was on board Amtrak 501, headed to see cousins in Oregon, when it derailed. In a mangled train car, first responders found the 16-year-old upside down and barely breathing.
Timmy ended up in the ICU with a broken neck and several other injuries. He was practically paralyzed and needed a ventilator to breath. At that point, his family didn’t know if he’d survive.
But Timmy improved, day after day, and soon his family’s focus turned to recovery.
On January 25, Timmy boarded a plane bound for Colorado.
Timmy was transferred to Craig Hospital, which specializes in spinal cord injuries. Their therapists are leading Timmy through an intense rehab regimen that pushes his limits.
“I look at life differently now,” Timmy explains. “I try to stay positive because getting mad isn’t going to do anything you know.”
In physical therapy, he is relearning to sit up on his own. Strengthening his core remains a focus.
In occupational therapy, Timmy works on fine finger movement. A nerve in his left shoulder is still injured, so his left hand doesn’t work as well as his right.
“They really push me to do my best,” Timmy said about Craig’s therapists.
“If I was doing exercises where Timmy felt comfortable all the time, I don’t really feel like I’d be doing my job,” Andrew Flint, Timmy’s occupational therapist said. “And I don’t think I’d be doing Timmy justice.”
Timmy sweats through intense therapy sessions for hours each day, balancing school work as well.
His improvements are obvious. He has gained close to 30 pounds and is back to a healthy weight. He is slowly regaining movement of his arms, hands and feet. His neck brace is now gathering dust beside his bed.
A list of goals hangs in Timmy’s room: to brush his teeth and put on his shirt. He slowly builds those skills in his daily therapy sessions.
Timmy’s mother has been sleeping on a pull out chair in Timmy’s hospital room since he arrived.
“I’m so proud of him,” Robyn Brodigan said. “He’s a trooper. He’s hanging in there. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do.”
Timmy was discharged from in-patient care this week, and will soon begin out-patient care at Craig, which could last months.
He’s also learning to use helpful voice-activated technology. He’ll need those tools this fall, when he hopes to return home and back to school.
“It’s going to be scary because like I’m different now,” Timmy said. “If I go somewhere I’m always going to be the one being looked at. You know what I’m saying? Yeah, it’s going to feel different. At least I’ll have friends and family by my side.”
Fear inevitably accompanies uncertainty, but hope remains Timmy’s antidote.
In early March, Timmy started training on the Lokomat, a robotic walker that guides Timmy through the walking motion. It’s good for his joints and bones, and helps Timmy relearn the stepping pattern. On the machine, his legs guide an avatar that moves on a screen in front of him.
Timmy and his family credit Craig Hospital for the incredible strides he’s taken.
With intense therapy, they’re are hopeful Timmy will walk again. But it’s not given and it won’t be easy.
“I’ve kind of accepted, what I have got to do now. I’m looking forward to the future, I’m not looking at the past anymore,” Timmy said. “The past is the past, you know? I’m looking to the future. To see if I can stand again. Take a step.”
Until then, hope will continue to carry him down this long road.
Timmy’s family is still searching for the man and woman who found Timmy injured at the scene. They believe the two were paramedic trainees who were passing by the area when the derailment unfolded.
The community has helped Timmy’s family afford his growing medical bills. A GoFundMe page has already raised around $70,000.
WATCH: Train derailment victim's incredible road to recovery Part I:
WATCH: Train derailment victim's incredible road to recovery Part II: