VEVAY, Ind. -- Parents of high school football players expect to see their children get knocked down, and Beth Schirmer didn't panic when she watched her 15-year-old son, Colton, take a hit in the opening minutes of his first-ever varsity game.
She panicked when he didn't get up.
Colton lay on the ground, breathing but not moving, for agonizing minutes as coaches, friends and medical staff circled around him. When they asked how he felt, he could only shrug -- his entire body had gone numb below the neck.
"It was a surreal moment to look into his eyes," Coach Ryan Jesop said that night. "It's been hard for everyone that was there to see it."
The hit, although legal, had dislodged two of Colton's vertebrae, rendering him unable to walk or control much of his upper body. Doctors determined he would need surgery at Indianapolis Children's Hospital that night.
The following day, when sensation had begun to creep back into Colton's feet and hands, Schirmer learned a full recovery could require up to nine months of painful, expensive physical therapy.
"It was a nightmare," she said.
Schirmer sees her son's recovery as a long-haul endeavor to which their entire family needed to commit. She stopped working for two months to care for him at home. She helps him make the hour-and-a-half trip to Especially Kids in Schelbyville, Indiana, multiple times each week.
"Every day there's a little bit more," she said. "It's a marathon. It's not a sprint."
However, there's only so much she can do in Vevay. Schirmer said Colton can receive better, more specialized daily care at the Frazier Rehab Institute in Louisville, Kentucky, but the cost is prohibitive without help.
To that end, the Vevay Shell convenience store will hold a fundraiser for Colton on Saturday. All pizza sales will go toward the cost of his ongoing treatment, and the company will match donations made in his honor.
"I'd like to see him back on his feet," Schirmer said. "He'll walk again."