Son’s recovery from accident gives Andrews reason for thanks
Keith Andrews watched with a shy smile Saturday as De Soto High School basketball coach Jason Generally ran his varsity through its offensive sets.
The smile displayed a trace of guilt. Keith has an agreement with his son Kyle not to watch the team practice. But a visit to the school for another purpose created an excuse he and his wife, Bonnie, couldn't resist.
As a middle school coach in Lansing, Keith has a professional interest in the progress of a team coached by a man the Andrews now consider a member of the family. But the biggest temptation was the pure joy of watching his son, a junior center, glide around the court.
"I've read about miracles in the Bible," he said. "Now I've witnessed one in my life."
On Feb. 24, 2002, the Andrews got an early morning call all parents' dread. When they answered the phone, they learned Kyle was one of three De Soto High School students injured in an accident on 83rd Street.
The Andrews live near the crash site. But when they arrived about 1:30 on that Sunday morning, Kyle had already been taken by Life Flight to Kansas University Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan. That and what the emergency personnel refused to say revealed the seriousness of their son's injuries.
"All they said was, 'You need to get to the hospital; you need to get to the hospital,'" Keith said.
To their relief, the Andrews found Kyle alive when they arrived at the Med-Center's Trauma Center. But doctors were guarded when they were asked to make a prognosis.
"He had tubes coming out in every side," Bonnie said. "The doctors didn't give him much hope."
The first encouraging words they received were from Generally, who arrived at the hospital early that morning.
"He was the first one to say Kyle was going to be alright," Bonnie said. "He said, 'Kyle's a fighter. He's going to get through this.'"
Generally said he based his optimism on the attitude Kyle brought to the basketball team.
"He works hard at practice every day," he said. "Kyle never makes excuses. He always approaches things positively. When you do that, things generally work out well for you."
She and her husband adopted Generally's outlook after a visit to Kyle's room, Bonnie said.
"We all three hugged in the hallway," she said. "We said everything would be positive."
Generally was the first community member to visit the hospital to support Kyle and his family, but he would be followed by a parade of others.
One hundred and fifty people visited the hospital the first day, Bonnie said. In the first difficult days, De Soto High School Principal Debbie Lynn, Mill Valley High School Principal Joe Novak, USD 232 Superintendent Marilyn Layman and many of Kyle's teachers visited the hospital and offered encouragement, she said.
Caring people from De Soto, Lansing and the family's Holy Family Catholic Church in Eudora anticipated Bonnie, Keith and their older son Jason's needs as they kept their hospital vigil, Keith and Bonnie said. People provided snacks and showed up at 5 p.m. with dinner, they said. De Soto High School cheerleaders made a poster to brighten the room. High school students in Lansing sent a roll of quarters for vending machines.
"It just shows how Kyle is respected in the community," Generally said.
As a member of the basketball team, Kyle made a weekly visit to Starside Elementary to read to students and helped with the city's winter youth basketball league. He was the only team member to both coach a team and referee games. The day of the accident, Kyle's schedule was filled with his youth league duties and other activities, Bonnie said.
The outpouring of community support helped them through the difficult period when they first feared for Kyle's life and then faced concerns about the long-term effects of his injuries, the Andrews said.
Kyle doesn't remember his stay at the Med-Center. His first post-accident memories are from Mid-America, where he remembers waking up hungry. He remained in Mid-America and mostly bedridden until late April.
Kyle's recovery didn't end with his release. His muscles had atrophied during his long hospitalization, forcing him to relearn such basic tasks as eating and walking. The 6-foot-6-inch Kyle returned home weighing 144 pounds, 21 pounds less than he weighed on the day of the accident.
"He had no flexibility, no strength and no stamina," Keith said. "He spent hours of hard work to get to this point."
To build up Kyle's strength, his father took him to the De Soto High School track every day this summer. At first, Kyle would become winded after walking half a lap. But through work on the track and the weight room, Kyle has recovered his strength and stamina. He now weighs 10 pounds more than he did before the accident.
"We spent too much time together," Keith said. "When we're driving and see a sign, we'll both say the same thing at the same time."
Kyle has scars from surgery needed to repair a broken wrist and from cuts on his legs, but said has fully recovered from the accident. He has caught up academically and is making the same grades he did before the accident. Still, the high school junior said he was not the same person.
"I think I've matured a lot," he said. "I make a lot better choices in my life. I don't do the things I used to do.
"I'm just thankful for a second chance in life."
Keith said he and his family remained awed and grateful for the outpouring of community support.
"It's a nice thing to realize the community of support behind us," he said. "I imagine Thanksgiving with the relatives will be special."
Bonnie said she felt the same gratitude. The accident has made her made more aware of the importance of her large extended family in De Soto, she said.
She has made her more protective of Kyle, she said.
"You always love your children," she said. "But when you almost lose one, it goes to another level."
Bonnie is looking forward to De Soto High School's first home basketball game Dec. 10. When Kyle steps on the floor that night in front of the community that supported him, it would put a period on nine months of heartbreak, worry and stress, she said.
"The first game is going to be very emotional," she said. "That'll be the last step."