By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
On a cold and rainy day last October, Chris Botkin, a 2005 Madison Southern High School graduate, was driving to Nicholasville to pick up his cousin.
The two were headed to the Bluegrass Community & Technical College in Lexington, where Botkin attended school.
Botkin’s ultimate goal was to get his degree at a university, and coupled with the deep-sea diving certification he earned in Key West the year before, become a wildlife biologist, said his mother, Sandy Botkin.
However, Chris’ plans were cut short when, according to witnesses, he slammed on his brakes to avoid rear-ending a truck, hydroplaned into oncoming traffic and was T-boned by another vehicle.
Chris was transported to the University of Kentucky Trauma Center where doctors discovered he had a lacerated liver and spleen. Doctors would not work to repair the organs because they told his mother Chris’ brain injury “was such that he would not live,” she said.
Sandy would not give up that easily on a child she considered to be “nothing short of a miracle,” she said.
“A doctor looked me in the eye 25 years ago and said, ‘You’re 100-percent sterile and you will never have a child,’” recalled Sandy, who tried to conceive for more than six years.
She had documented all of her conception attempts in a journal that she kept for the son she believed that she would one day have.
Doctors at UK installed a drain for the fluid that had accumulated around Chris’ brain. He was in a coma.
Sandy remembers leaning over her son that night and whispering to him: “Chris, I don’t know where you’ve been, and I don’t know who you’ve seen, but if it’s all up to you, please don’t leave me.”
“And he didn’t,” she said.
The following day, doctors ran tests on Chris’ liver and spleen and discovered they were healed completely.
“His liver and spleen were healed within 24 hours — that’s the work of God,” she said. “Some people may scoff at that, but it’s documented.”
Chris remained in the UK trauma unit until Nov. 8., when he was transported by medical helicopter to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, a catastrophic care hospital.
The Shepherd Center specializes in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury or brain injury, according to the hospital’s website.
At the hospital, doctors worked on moving Chris up the Rancho Scale, a medical scale from one to eight used to assess individuals after head injury and based on cognitive and behavioral functioning as they emerge from coma.
A patient at level one does not respond to sounds, sights, touch or movement. Level eight represents purposeful and appropriate functioning, according to www.rancho.org.
By the time Chris left Shepherd Center, he was at a level three and had started waking up. His eyes would open slightly and he could respond by giving a thumbs-up for “yes” and a thumbs-down for “no,” his mother said.
On Dec. 27, Chris was transported home to Berea with the goal of waking him up to a level four, Sandy said, “but he’s not quite there.”
Doctors from the Shepherd Center have recently re-evaluated Chris via Skype.
One doctor traveled from Atlanta to evaluate Chris in-person. But, the family has nearly run out of hope, Sandy said.
Sandy was a teacher at Foley Middle School for 20 years, and her husband taught at George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester for nearly 15 years. Both made a good living, but were forced to retire early to care for their son, Sandy said.
Although they have excellent insurance, their son requires round-the-clock care. Home health care funds have run dry, and the family has racked up around $500,000 in medical bills.
Fortunately, said Sandy, Chris was still allowed to be a dependent on their insurance.
“Thank God for Obamacare,” she said. “I don’t care who you are, everybody needs help now and then.”
The family will conduct a yard sale at their home located at 277 Davis Hollow Road in Berea, Thursday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. until dark.
The proceeds will help with Chris’ continuing health care costs.
“Ever since Chris was born, he’s had these vines that are wrapped around my heart. They would tighten every time something happened to him,” Sandy said.
“People don’t know how much this hurts until it happens to their child.”
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, ext. 6696.