Road to Recovery: Hit-and-Run Victim Makes “Miracle” Recovery to Start the School Year

Aaron Lancaster walked into Timber Creek High School on August 15 just like any other junior starting the 2017-18 school year. But almost five months earlier, while the school was dressed in red to show support, he lay in a coma with doctors unsure of his survival.

The Collision

On the evening of March 19, 2017 at 8:15 p.m., Timber Creek student Aaron Lancaster was struck in a hit-and-run collision. The incident occurred at the intersection of North Beach and Funnel Street when Lancaster was on his way home from rehearsal for the school’s 2017 UIL One Act Play, Ugly Lies the Bone. The impact of the collision sent Lancaster a whopping 93 feet, the length of three classrooms.

Police arrested Matthew Hunter Wyman on April 10, 2017 for allegedly hitting Lancaster. Wyman was charged with causing an accident that involved serious bodily injury. Legal action against Wyman is still pending.

“Well I do dislike him, not because he hit me, but because he hit me and did not stop,” Lancaster stated when asked how he felt about Wyman. “But I often like to say ‘I got in a fist fight with a car, the car was totaled, I won.'”

When Lancaster was struck, fellow Timber Creek student Noah Webb and his mother witnessed the incident and immediately called 911. Though Webb and Lancaster were friends, Webb could not even recognize him. The next person to stop was a local pastor. Upon arriving to the scene, he noticed a script for Ugly Lies the Bone, hinting that this was a Timber Creek theatre student. He contacted fellow churchgoer, Caroline Norton, who then contacted the Ugly Lies the Bone group chat, asking for everyone to do a little check-in. Everyone replied, except for Lancaster.

At that point, the ambulance had taken Lancaster to Baylor hospital and he was immediately placed in a medically induced coma, but neither of his guardians had been notified. Since his friends knew only his street name and not his full address, the police had to go door to door.

“I heard a knock at my door,” said Cindy Lancaster, Aaron’s mother. “[The police] asked if I knew an Aaron Lancaster, and I said ‘yes, that’s my son.’ They said that there had been an accident, and they didn’t know the condition he was in, and that I needed to go to the hospital.”

When she arrived at Baylor Hospital, she was met by the chaplain. He led her to the Intensive Care Unit to meet with the trauma doctors that were treating Aaron.

“I used to work at a hospital, and when you are greeted by the chaplain, it usually means your loved one is dead, or on the verge of death,” Cindy said.

When Lancaster’s mother stepped into the waiting room, it was packed. She assumed that they were just family members for other patients in the ICU.

“I asked one of [the people in the waiting room] if one of their family members was in there,” she said. “They replied, ‘No, we’re all here for Aaron.’ It was almost the entire theater department, and it was 12 A.M. on a school night.”

Timber Creek Theatre members in the ICU waiting room to support Aaron Lancaster. (Photos from the Lancaster Family.)

The theatre students had UIL One Act Play competition scheduled for two days later, so his mother thanked them all and told them the best thing to do was to go home, get some rest, and give it their all for Aaron. At the competition, all the Timber students participating were clad in “mom jeans” and red ribbons. The theme of red was carried to the whole school, as Aaron’s favorite play is titled “Red.” They even brought a teddy bear named “Lance” in place of Aaron. After advancing in their UIL competition, the cast gifted the teddy bear to Aaron, with a newly-rewarded medal around its neck.

The Coma

The following Wednesday took a turn for the worse. The day started off on a high note, with hundreds, if not thousands of people both on campus and around the community wearing red in honor of him. Behind the scenes, Aaron’s mother was receiving the news no mother wants to hear, that her son may never wake up.

The doctors notified her that upon taking him out of the medically induced coma, he fell into a legitimate coma, where he could wake up in a few days, weeks, months, years, or even never. The crash didn’t only do damage to Lancaster’s brain, but also many bones, two of which required surgery. The impact caused him to break his tibia, fibula, elbow, first rib, and cheekbone, which launched into his nose, causing a broken nose as well. On top of it all, he also received a bruised lung. He was intubated, had a feeding tube, and screws in his shin called an “External Fixator.” The doctors told Cindy that Lancaster’s journey would be a “marathon and not a sprint.”

“First thing I remember, was thinking I was in a military hospital, and people were doing experiments on me,” said Lancaster. He blames this entirely on Ugly Lies the Bone, which has a very similar plot.

In what Cindy describes as a “miracle,” just a few weeks after receiving the gut-wrenching news, Lancaster opened his eyes, and said “Mom, I love you.” Aaron then began recovering faster than the doctors had ever seen before. “The nurses said I was literally breaking records,” Lancaster stated.

The Marathon

During the next three to four weeks after waking up, Lancaster’s brain was still in a comatose stage and he was unable to remember many events during that time. He was able to speak individual words, but could not seem to concoct an understandable sentence.

Though Aaron was able to read, his motor skills needed to be fine-tuned through rehabilitation and physical therapy. In the beginning of his rehabilitation, Aaron was asked by his therapist to draw a circle, and he drew a snake. He was then told to draw a square, and he drew a circle. Then he was asked what his favorite color was, and he replied, “eight.” After this, he was told to draw a clock with the numbers on it. Lancaster got numbers one through five correct, but every number after that was eight.

“I don’t even know what my obsession with eight was,” says Lancaster “That’s not even my favorite number”.

To conclude the session that day, he was told to put the hands on the clock, and to make it read 11:15. In response to this, he literally put his hands on the clock.

A week later, Lancaster was given another blank piece of paper, and asked to draw a clock once again, and he drew it perfectly. Along with this therapy, Lancaster had two other therapists as well. He had to relearn basic life skills again, including how to change his clothes and tie his shoes. He also attended speech therapy, and though his speaking was not very damaged from the incident, he had to relearn how to swallow, and gain his memory back.

“Even though I was preparing for multiple marathons, he did sprint” stated his mother.

After six weeks, Lancaster was released from the Baylor inpatient rehabilitation, and transferred to Pate outpatient rehabilitation in Watauga. There, he continued to get his physical and mental strength back. Lancaster believes those at Pate played a massive role in his rapid recovery.

“With all I’ve gone through, I couldn’t imagine doing it with people I didn’t like,” he said.

The Support

There was a tiny upside to the entire incident, though. Lancaster says that his brain injury caused him to no longer have severe depression, but not for the reason one may think. The car made most contact with the front of his head, where the frontal lobe is located. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that processes emotion, so, according to Lancaster, the impact “killed” his depression, and he hasn’t had a single depressive episode since the incident. He also said that the accident has caused him to be significantly more optimistic, and that he has a lot more of a liking for the world. Even though there are certain political things upsetting him right now, seeing all of the other patients at Pate in the same state he was, still working hard, gave him a new perspective on life.

He also says he has learned to love his friends even more. Before the incident, he was always worried they would all leave, but after them sticking by his side even when he couldn’t stick by theirs, he knows they’re here to stay. Many of his friends recorded video messages for him. His best friend, Trevor, even recorded a 30-minute Dungeons and Dragons session for him. Another one of his friends, former Timber Creek student Kodi Dugan, wrote him two songs and played them for him while he was in the hospital. He also highlighted Megan McCormick as being the first to make him laugh post-coma.

Aaron Lancaster laughs as Megan McCormick holds his hand during Aaron’s stay in the hospital. (Photo from the Lancaster Family.)

Lancaster was dispatched a few days early, so he was able to go to the upcoming theatre banquet. He was awarded with best supporting actor, elected co-secretary of Drama Club, and was able to letter for theatre.

Finally, Aaron Lancaster and his parents would like to thank everyone for everything they have done.

“All of the efforts were overwhelming, humbling and amazing,” Cindy stated.

The Lancasters want to thank the cast of Ugly Lies the Bone for raising over $3,000, and Timber Creek as a whole for raising over $30,000. The money has gone a long way and have made it to where Lancaster could have everything he needed for a proper recovery. The family also want to thank the doctors and therapists at Baylor Hospital, Baylor Rehabilitation, and Pate for making the healing process the best it could be.

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