NORWOOD, Ohio — Talking. Swallowing. Sitting. They're basic, even subconscious acts many take for granted, but for Kody Evans, they show a second chance at life.
The Brown County native is recovering in a San Bernardino, California hospital where doctors describe him as "The Miracle ICU Man."
"We honestly thought we were just keeping him alive long enough to die," Evan's father Bobby said. "Don't take life for granted because it can change in the blink of an eye."
On Dec. 11, it did for Evans.
Evans was camping in a wooded area in San Bernardino when a drunk driver lost control and drove off the highway, his father said. The car went down a steep embankment, and through a fence before landing on top of the tent where Evans was sleeping.
"Literally waking up to the sound of crunching metal and first responders talking, extracting folks from the car above him," said Bobby, describing the account his son shared with him.
Evans was rushed to the hospital and, following surgery, placed into a medically induced coma in the ICU. He remained that way for three weeks.
During that time, Bobby said he didn't even know Evans was in California, let alone that he had been in an accident.
He said Evans is a "free spirit" who has spent the past five years traveling the country with his dog, taking odd jobs along the way. Bobby said it wasn't uncommon to go long periods of time without speaking to his son.
But on Jan. 5, he got a call he never thought he'd get.
Doctors had lowered Evans' sedation that day and he happened to overhear them talking. He waved his hand and ushered them over.
"When they came over, he asked for something to write with and he wrote my name and number down on a piece of paper," Bobby said.
Bobby, who lives in Union, Kentucky, jumped on a plane two days later and has been by Evans' side ever since, helping him adapt to a new normal. On top of broken ribs, a lacerated liver and collapsed lungs, Evans' spine was severed that night, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.
But, Bobby said he's defying the odds.
"He's got a little of his sense of humor back and mentally he's improving just increasingly fast," he said.
Evans is off the ventilator and breathing on his own. Bobby said 51 days after entering the hospital, his son was able to eat his first meal as well as sit upright with the aid of a cardiac chair and watch the sunset through a window.
The goal now is to get Evans home to continue treatment at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Center in Norwood.
Bobby hopes his son's current doctors clear him to leave the trauma center by the end of the week. He wants to rent a van to make the cross-country trek back to the Tri-State.
"When things like this happen, we don't get over them, we just move forward from them," Bobby said.
A GoFundMe was created to help with Evans' medical expenses. As of Wednesday, it's raised around half of the $50,000 goal.