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Andrew Hall, who lost his leg to suspected drunken driver in Safety Harbor, stays positive

Andrew Hall, 19, of Safety Harbor lost his leg when he was hit by a suspected drunken driver on April 20. Hall is still in Bayfront Medical Center but is hopeful about getting a prosthetic leg.

Special to the Times

Andrew Hall, 19, of Safety Harbor lost his leg when he was hit by a suspected drunken driver on April 20. Hall is still in Bayfront Medical Center but is hopeful about getting a prosthetic leg.

ST. PETERSBURG — Brightly colored rainbows and flowers decorate one side of Andrew Hall's blanket. Muted patterns dominate the other.

Each side sends hospital visitors a message.

If they see the dark side, Hall is feeling down. If they see the bright side, it means he's feeling upbeat and is ready for visitors.

It's the bright side that's perpetually up, family members say.

It may seem hard to imagine, considering what Hall is going through. The 19-year-old has been at Bayfront Medical Center since an out-of-control Honda Accord ripped off his left leg on April 20.

Five weeks later, the wound remains uncovered by skin. His pelvis was shattered, his left arm broken in six places, his right knee dislocated. The internal bleeding is under control, but Hall still battles an infection.

So the bright-side-up blanket is a surprise, especially as people around Tampa Bay find that, as they try to buoy Hall's spirits, he does the same for them.

• • •

Hall and his family talk about the letter he received from a woman who said his story helped save her marriage.

The woman said "that she was tired of working on it," said Mary Arana-Andersen, who has been like a mother figure to Hall. "And just reading his story made her realize she needed to keep working on it, and who was she to just give up so easily?"

• • •

Hall is realistic about his condition.

"I'm not in shock," he said this week. "I know my left leg is gone."

But he's also optimistic. A doctor told him this week it will be possible to fit him with a prosthetic leg, and Hall aims to get one. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a toddler, Hall has struggled all his life to walk unassisted.

"I'm going to walk again," he said. "I'm going to walk out of here."

In the meantime, despite the near-constant pain that wracks his body, Hall is already trying to cut back on his pain medication. Instead, he uses his mind to try to push away the pain, he said.

Told a few days ago that physical therapy on his broken arm would begin soon, Hall didn't waste any time, Arana-Andersen said.

"He's just laying there in bed and stretching it down and over his head, working on a range of motions. The physical therapist was amazed."

• • •

One card came from a young man who was addicted to drugs.

"He said he had been doing drugs and found it hard to kick the habit," Arana-Andersen said. "But after hearing Andrew's story, he got the strength to do it."

Many of the letters have a common theme, she said: "The fact that he can keep his spirits up is making them realize how trivial their problems are and how much worse it could be."

• • •

Hall was injured in the early morning hours of April 20 as he stood outside his home in Safety Harbor. Pinellas County sheriff's deputies have said they suspect Joshua West, 24, was drinking and driving when his car careened out of control and up onto the sidewalk, striking Hall.

West ran after the crash but was caught nearby. He has a suspended license and a history of driving infractions, including a DUI charge. The state Department of Corrections issued a warrant for his arrest on a probation violation. He was picked up May 15 in Pasco County by the U.S. Marshal's Service task force and is jailed in Hillsborough County without bail.

Pinellas authorities have not charged West, but have said their investigation remains open.

• • •

Many of the hundreds of cards and letters that Hall has received have come from amputees.

"A lot of them are giving him encouragement and a lot of them are saying they are taking encouragement from him," Arana-Andersen said. "Some of them, their injuries aren't as bad as his is and they're inspired by his ability to get past it and move on and not feel sorry for himself."

• • •

Ashley DiPaolo and Hall started dating about two months before the accident, they said.

Hall, DiPaolo said, is the kind of guy who will "do anything for anybody."

They don't talk much about his injuries and choose to focus on the good things — like their relationship — she said.

"He's a fighter," said DiPaolo, 17. "He has his bad days and his good days, and he's going to have that the rest of his life, but the way he copes with it is remarkable."

• • •

One day this week, Arana-Andersen was crying about Hall's condition. Hall asked her to grab his Bible, the new international version, and read Philippians 4:10-13.

"I wanted her to stop worrying," Hall said.

It reads: "I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who gives me strength."

The passage brought her comfort, Arana-Andersen said.

In regard to his blanket, "He has said 'I will tell you when I need it turned over,' " Arana-Andersen said. "And he's never wanted it turned over yet."

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

FAST FACTS

How to help

A fund has been set up to help pay for Andrew Hall's medical care. To donate, go to any SunTrust Bank and make a deposit to the Andrew S. Hall Charitable Fund, or mail a deposit to SunTrust Bank, Mail Teller, P.O. Box 27572, Richmond, VA 23261-7572.

Andrew Hall, who lost his leg to suspected drunken driver in Safety Harbor, stays positive 05/28/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 30, 2009 1:56pm]

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