In the 217 days since his leg was torn off in a horrific hit-and-run accident, Andrew Hall has longed for the day he could leave the hospital and go home. Sunday was that day. "I'm finally going home. This part of the journey is ending, but I still have a long way to go," said Hall, 20. Hall came to Bayfront Medical Center on April 20, after he was hit by a Honda Accord going an estimated 90 mph on Main Street in Safety Harbor. The alleged driver, 25-year-old Joshua West, was charged with three felonies, including driving under the influence. West is being held at the Pinellas County Jail. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Nov. 30.
Hall, who has cerebral palsy, had worked his whole life to walk on his own. The impact of the accident severed his left leg, crushed his pelvis, shattered his right arm and snapped the tendons in his right knee. Hall was the subject of a St. Petersburg Times special report in August, called "The Golden Hour," that detailed the efforts of paramedics and the trauma surgeon who saved Hall's life.
Over the past seven months, Hall has had more than a half dozen surgeries to clean and repair his wound, mend his broken bones and repair his dislocated knee. He has fought infections, battled malnutrition and weaned himself off powerful narcotic pain relievers. At times, he dealt with depression and anxiety attacks connected to the trauma, he said.
"When it came to the point I realized this hospital would be my home, and in some ways a prison, I just accepted it," Hall said. "The realization sets in and you just kind of have a numb feeling because you have no choice."
Hall said he found inspiration from the hundreds of well-wishers who sent cards and letters.
Between visits from loved ones, he passed the time with movies, video games, his Bible and new friends.
"He zips around in his scooter. He goes from room to room. He visits people and cheers them up. He's a wonderful young man," said 69-year-old Ana Masri, whose husband, Joseph, is recuperating from surgery.
Through physical therapy, Hall has learned to pull himself up in bed and balance while in a sitting position. He will get around in a motorized chair, but hopes to walk again someday with the help of a prosthetic limb.
Hall will live with Hanyn Arana, who has been like a father figure to Hall since he was an infant.
"It's the best day of my life," said a smiling Arana after he lifted Hall into his truck for the ride back to Clearwater.
Hall said there are lots of things he won't miss about the hospital: the boredom, the lack of privacy, the sleepless nights.
He wants to find "a new normalcy," filled with simple pleasures, like feeling the sun on his face and "just being at home."
Hall said he looks forward to spending time with his nieces and his Rottweiler Princess, going out to eat and catching up with friends. He hopes to be able to see one of his favorite Christian rock bands in concert soon and can't wait to get back to worshiping at Church of Christ in Hudson, he said.
"My faith is a very big part to surviving this," said Hall. "I do miss my church family and it will be good to see them."
Hall spent his 20th birthday in the hospital this August, but will be home for Thanksgiving, just in time to reflect on all he's grateful for this year, he said — the love and support of family and friends and the doctors and nurses that have cared for him the past seven months.
"You've never lived until you've almost died," he said.
Rita Farlow can be reached at (727) 445-4157 or email@example.com.