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Andrew Hall hopes the new year brings a courtroom encounter with the man accused of running him over

CLEARWATER — Andrew Hall is looking forward.

Forward to gaining enough strength and balance to move out of his motorized wheelchair and onto crutches.

Forward to moving into his own apartment.

Forward to getting a prosthetic limb to replace the leg that was violently ripped away from him in April.

"I want to walk so bad I can taste it like acid in my mouth," he said Thursday.

Hall was 19 years old when he was hit by a speeding drunk driver as he stood outside his Safety Harbor apartment on April 20. Among his injuries were a severed left leg, a crushed pelvis, a shattered left arm and dislocated right knee.

He spent 34 days in intensive care and another six months hospitalized at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where he celebrated his 20th birthday. He was released in November and now lives in the Clearwater home of Hanyn Arana, who has been a father figure to Hall.

As a new year dawns, Hall can't help but look back, too.

To the many months confined to a hospital bed.

To the medical tests and surgeries and grueling physical therapy sessions.

To the man who, Pinellas County sheriff's deputies say, caused it all: Joshua West.

"He's changed my life and he's changed his. He needs to get an idea of what he's put me through," Hall said. "I don't know if he's ever seen me in the (newspaper), but you can be damned sure he's going to see me face to face (in court)."

Before he was arrested on three felony charges in connection with the crash, West was sentenced to 13 months in prison for violating his probation on an unrelated drug charge. He was transferred to the Pinellas County Jail, where he remains.

The Sheriff's Office said West had a blood alcohol level of 0.188 percent — more than twice the level at which a Florida driver is presumed impaired — and was going an estimated 90 mph when he slammed into Hall.

The effects were devastating.

Hall, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a toddler, worked tenaciously as a child to strengthen his legs to the point where he could walk unassisted. Ultimately, he did, and he said goodbye to the confinement of a wheelchair.

Then came the accident.

"I don't control my own mobility. It's all within the confines of this chair," Hall said. "All because a young adult didn't exercise good judgment."

After the crash, Hall received cards and letters from hundreds of people who were inspired by his story of survival and perseverance. In his bedroom sits a framed photo signed by more than a dozen of his rehab team, many of whom comment on how he inspired them during his stay.

"I live every day as if it were my last," Hall said. "I plan for the future, but mainly it's ideas for the future, because anything can happen that can change your life."

Hall is starting to get the hang of his wheelchair, though there have been a few mishaps, said Mary Arana-Andersen, a mother figure to Hall.

"We've all been run over," she said. "He just gets restless and starts twirling. I keep telling him 'that is not a go-cart.' "

"They didn't teach me in the hospital, so I'm learning it now," Hall said.

Hall said he's enjoying time bonding with family outside of a hospital setting and catching up with friends.

But he longs to recapture the independence and social life he had before the accident, he said.

"If there's anything I want to do next year, it's get my life back."

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Andrew Hall hopes the new year brings a courtroom encounter with the man accused of running him over 12/31/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 31, 2009 7:30pm]
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