By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (June 30, 2016) — Ryan Gaitan and his girlfriend, Darcy Sones are on the road to recovery, and Ryan’s father, Lee Roy Gaitan, is understandably emotional as he discusses how fortunate both teenagers are to be alive.
Gaitan, 17, of Dublin, and Sones, 18, of De Leon, were in a two-car accident about 4:15 p.m. Sunday while driving north on US Highway 67 near the Catholic church and County Road 380.
Gaitan, it was later learned, had a fractured vertebrae in his lower back, while Sones suffered a brain bleed. Both were taken by ambulance to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville and later transported to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth.
“Thank God they are on the road to recovery. I feel so bad for the family of Alex Sanchez and Lyle Hussong, and that tragedy happened earlier on the same day. I can’t even imagine what those families are going through, but I do understand how close we were to going through the same tragic experience,” said Lee Roy Gaitan, who serves as constable of Erath County Precinct 2. “I just keep thanking God over and over that my boy and his girlfriend are even alive.”
And that Ryan is not paralyzed. He underwent surgery Thursday morning to repair the fractured vertebrae.
“He had two plates and eight screws put in his back and he’s in a special brace from his shoulders down to his waist that he has to wear four months at the minimum,” said Lee Roy Gaitan. “But doctors believe he’s going to be able to take a few steps later today (Thursday) and that he’s not going to need rehab other than for walking.”
That almost wasn’t the case. Ryan Gaitan jumped out of the car, ran around to the passenger side and pulled out his girlfriend.
“The doctor here told us it’s a miracle Ryan was able to get her out of the car without paralyzing himself,” Lee Roy Gaitan said. “The doctor here said we were literally within a hair of him being paralyzed. That’s how close it was.”
Gaitan credits Dr. Marilyn Brister in the Terrell Emergency Center in Stephenville with finding the fractured vertebrae in time.
“Dr. Brister caught it and knew he needed special attention immediately,” Lee Roy Gaitan said. “She was concerned because it was a very unusual break that could cause permanent paralysis. It couldn’t be repaired with a brace, the only way was for them to go in and repair it surgically.
Ryan Gaitan, who will be a senior at Dublin High School in 2016-17, suffered other injuries, including a broken wrist.
“All that can heal, it’s just going to take time. As far as his senior year, we’ll just take that a day at a time,” Constable Gaitan said. “We told him it doesn’t sound encouraging for football and that just broke his heart, but at the same time all our hearts are rejoicing that we still have a son.”
Two doors down in Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, Sones is recovering from a brain bleed.
“It was a bad bleed, but it’s stopped and she is recovering,” Lee Roy Gaitan said. “Her jaw was dislocated and some of her teeth were uprooted. She’s had a couple surgeries. They went in and rewired all that, and she’ll have her mouth wired for several weeks. She bruised her kidneys and her liver also had some damage, but she will recover.
“Her family is just like ours,” he continued. “They’re just so grateful that she survived, that they both survived and are on the road to recovery.”
Friends and family back home and everywhere immediately began prayer chains and other ways of showing support for the Gaitan and Sones families. An employee of Chili’s Bar and Grill in Stephenville says the restaurant is planning a fundraiser for Sones, but details are not finalized.
“The overwhelming amount of prayers from people all over has just meant so much to us. I knew we had friends, but oh my goodness, I just wish there was time to thank every person who has messaged or called us or even come to see us,” said the constable, who noted he has received more than 1,000 text messages from friends, family and others showing support for Ryan and Darcy. “I want people to know, we can feel the presence of God here…(he chokes up)…and we know it’s because we have wonderful people back home and everywhere who are praying for our son and for this precious girl.
“Surviving this, we know that means God has bigger plans for Ryan and for Darcy,” Constable Gaitan added. “I think God will help this to make them even stronger, better people. I know it’s already made me a better person.”
As Ryan prepares to try and get up to walk Thursday afternoon, his father knows the prayers of hundreds, perhaps thousands, will power his every movement.
“I’m just thanking God every day,” Constable Gaitan said. “What we’re going through could have been so much worse. We just thank him for the opportunity to heal together, to pick up the pieces and move forward in a positive way.”
NOTE: A GoFundMe account is set up for Gaitan and Sones. Click here for information or to help.