Road to recovery slow, painful for crash victims

Robert Boddeker left, Crystal Davis right.

By Shelby Zacharias

Staff Writer

HERMISTON — Just over a month ago, on a sunny January day, two lives were changed in an instant.

Their lives converged on Highway 395 when a pick-up driven by 15-year-old Crystal Lowery Davis collided with Robert Boddeker's van.

A month later, both families are still reeling in the aftermath of that crash and its impact on their lives.

Both Boddeker and Davis are still in the hospital recovering from the injuries they sustained in the crash.

Their families continue to make multiple trips each week to visit them, and slowly work to make their homes ready for each of their homecomings.

This weekend, Boddeker's children gathered at his house in Umatilla to build a ramp and other modification to make it more accessible.

According to his daughter Dorothy Boddeker-Kauffman, Boddeker was transferred from Good Shepherd Hospital to the Oregon Veteran's Home in The Dalles on Jan. 23, one week after the crash.

With a broken kneecap on his left leg and a shattered right foot, Boddeker, 85, is adjusting to life in a wheelchair.

"He has to learn to walk again," Dorothy said. "But it won't be the same — just little movements from place to place."

Because of his age, she said doctors were not able to set the broken bones in his foot.

"At 85 or 86, any injury is tricky," she said.

Some of the major concerns, she said, are a higher risk of infections such as pneumonia, as well as situational depression brought on by the accident.

Dorothy and her brother, Don, have been traveling to The Dalles every other day since Boddeker was transferred.

Dorothy said it hasn't been easy to have her dad and best friend so far away.

"We have a schedule," she said. That schedule had included his phone calls first thing in the morning as she gets ready for work, and their daily coffee break.

According to Dorothy, being away from his family hasn't been easy on Boddeker, either — a father of five, and grandfather to 14 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren, with another three on the way.

According to Don and Dorothy, this isn't the first time their father has faced huge obstacles in life.

As a teenager Boddeker was shot in the abdomen with a 410 and survived.

"He as two belly buttons from it," Don said.

Boddeker, a World War II veteran, drove tanks during the war.

"He's a tough bird," Dorothy said. "When I look at his life, I know he's here for a reason."

But one thing Boddeker won't be able to do for some time is drive.

"Dad drove to relax," Dorothy said. "He won't be able to do that for a while."

According to Dorothy, the van, a gift from his brother and sister-in-law, was totalled.

Dorothy said her dad lives on a limited income from his retirement after more than 30 years of teaching and a small social security income.

According to Dorothy, the minimum insurance coverage he held for uninsured motorists does not cover replacement costs.

An artist, Boddeker has also had to be without his work.

"When a creative person can't be creative," Don said, "they get depressed."

According to his children, Boddeker's first started carving at 16. He still has the small wooden hound dog he carved with a pocket knife and dipped in black lacquer.

Don said his father's artwork includes stone carving, iron work and sandblasted glass.

"He's an awesome artist," Don said of his father.

In fact, shortly before the accident Boddeker had purchased a sandblasting cabinet.

Boddeker won't be able to come home until he can bear weight on his left leg and his house is handicap accessible.

In addition to the changes to the house, Don is also modifying the shop to make it more accessible, too.

"He keeps asking if I've set up the sandblasting cabinet," Don said. "That's the first thing we're going to do when he gets home."

The Davis family is also eagerly awaiting the day when Crystal can come home.

Davis was transported by life-flight to Oregon Health and Science University shortly after the accident. On Feb. 4, she was transferred to Legacy Emanuel Hospital where she is continuing to heal from her injuries and undergoing rehabilitation.

According to her parents, James and Tasha Davis, she sustained a number of injuries including wide-spread brain injuries, several breaks in her jaw, broken facial plates on her left side and her left elbow is fractured.

James said she also has a problem with her left knee that doctors have not yet been able to isolate.

According to Tasha, Davis has no major scarring from the accident that ejected her from the pick-up she was driving.

"She's out of the danger zone," Tasha said. But she has a long way to go.

Davis still has a lot of swelling that makes a prognosis difficult, but according to James, she's ahead of the "unofficial" curve.

"The doctors are just as surprised to see her improvements as we are," he said.

According to her parents, doctors have said Davis' major recovery period will take place over the next two years.

During that time, Davis will alternate with six to eight weeks in rehab and then home for the same period of time before heading back to Portland for more rehab.

"We get excited about the little things," James said.

According to her parents, Davis is communicating through blinking her eyes and slight head movements, and she even attempts to smile on her right side.

Tasha said she is learning to help with daily activities such as brushing her hair and washing her face.

She recently learned to push her father's speed dial number on the cell phone.

Tasha said she is confident that if Crystal can regain the use of her left side, she will be able to walk again. Davis can already stand with some assistance.

This past weekend, she underwent solid food testing, a sign that her jaw is healing and a step forward in getting her off a feeding tube.

Tasha is staying at the Ronald McDonald House while Davis is in Portland, and James said he has been traveling over each week to spend three or four days with them.

"She's in really good spirits," Tasha said. "She's got a good attitude."

On Jan. 26, Davis spent her 16th birthday at OHSU. While it wasn't the ice skating trip the family had planned, James said he got what he wanted as Crystal was transferred out of the intensive care unit that day and into an intermediate care ward.

Despite the accident, her parents still describe her as a typical teenager — stubborn.

According to Tasha, Davis is only two classes away from completing her high school degree through a home school program.

James said she's very social and likes anything that has to do with "playing in the dirt."

She's raising a rabbit for 4-H, loves to babysit, and is really into classic cars.

"She's just as at home in the kitchen as she is in the shop," James said.

He said that Davis had plenty of experience behind the wheel prior to the accident, driving on job sites and around the family property.

According to earlier police reports, James was charged with permitting unlawful use of a motor vehicle.

However, exactly what the situation was that got Davis behind the wheel on Jan. 16, James said he doesn't know.

For now, the family is focusing on helping Davis with her rehab and learning how to take care of her.

According to James, his parents have traveled from Alaska to help take care of Crystal's two younger sisters living at home.

His father is also installing ramps for a wheelchair and preparing the house of Crystal's homecoming.

James describes Crystal as highly self-motivated, a trait he believes will only help in her recovery.

The family has set up a website at www.caringbridge.com where people can look for updates on Crystal's condition and see photos of her progress.

The Crystal Lowery Davis Fund was also set up at US Bank by one of her aunts to help the family pay for medical related expenses.

"There's so many people who've helped," Tasha said. "I want people to know she's going to be alright."

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