The 25-year-old doesn’t remember crossing the street, nor the drunken driver who ran a red light and hit him — breaking his legs and shoulder and leaving him with massive head injuries. The driver remained at the scene and was arrested.
The young auto mechanic spent three weeks in a medically induced coma at Mercy San Juan Hospital in Sacramento as doctors tried to stabilize the swelling in his brain. For much of that time, his father said, the younger Dahill was in fragile condition.
“That was the scariest part,” said Leland Dahill, who described waiting out his son’s coma as an exercise in patience. “It took them two weeks to fix his legs, because he just wasn’t stable enough.”
The swelling gradually went down; the broken bones were finally set; and not long after that, Ricky Dahill began showing signs of consciousness.
Finally, on Christmas Eve, Ricky woke up. Though he could neither walk nor lift his arms, his personality and sense of humor were intact.
“His memory is good — his mind is like it was before,” Leland Dahill said. “Now, we’re just waiting for his body to catch up.”
About a week after he emerged from the coma, Ricky Dahill was transferred to Dominican Hospital’s rehabilitation center on Frederick Street in Santa Cruz, where he continued to improve. He moved home Feb. 8.
While he still relies on a wheelchair to get around, he is able to stand for short periods and hopes to be cleared soon to begin walking exercises.
“I feel OK,” Ricky Dahill said at home in Scotts Valley. “Can’t walk or use my arms, but everything else feels OK.”
He said returning to Scotts Valley was major relief after spending so much time in hospitals.
“I’ve never been away from home that long,” he said.
Ricky Dahill, who said he had never been hospitalized until the accident, remains confident he would make a strong recovery.
“All of a sudden — boom — half of you doesn’t work,” he said. “One of these days, I’ll be back to like I used to be.”
Leland Dahill said the doctors told him it could take a full year to discover the extent of the damage to his son’s body, but both father and son are optimistic that Ricky will one day return to his job as right-hand man at Leland’s Automotive.
“It’s going to be a long process,” the elder Dahill said. “He just wants to get back to driving his cars.”
Work has gone on at the shop, but it has been difficult, given that the younger Dahill represented a third of the staff.
“I can’t wait for him to be back,” Leland Dahill said. “He’s very good at what he does.”
Leland’s Automotive opened on Scotts Valley Drive in March 1987, two months after Ricky Dahill was born. More or less since he was able to walk, the shop has been a father-and-son operation, Leland Dahill said.
“We’re basically partners,” he said. “One day, he’ll run the place.”
He said his son’s positive outlook has helped him, too.
“I learn stuff from him all the time,” Leland Dahill said. “I’m just impressed by his attitude. I’m so proud of him. We’re all very lucky he’s still here.”
To comment, email reporter Joe Shreve at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 438-2500 or post a comment at www.pressbanner.com.