A 21-year-old Panama City man was slowly taken out of a chemically-induced coma this week after a one-car accident Oct. 7 in Eastpoint sent him and a close friend to Bay Medical Center with life-threatening injuries.
Don Corley, of Eastpoint, said doctors are weaning his son, Austin, off heavy sedation this week to see how he responds.
"He sustained brain damage on the left side of his head," said Corley. "The pressure in his head is going down. He does have movements in all four extremities and feelings. He responds to pain; he can tell the tube’s down his throat."
He said doctors removed the ventilator Tuesday, "He woke up and was able to give me a thumbs-up and mumbled a few words," wrote Corley on Facebook. "He is strong on one side but doesn't move the other side much. He is still very confused about where he is and what happened."
Corley has stayed by his son’s side at the hospital ever since he and his passenger, John Hardy Golden, 26, of Eastpoint, arrived at Bay Medical following the accident at the foot of the St. George Island bridge in Eastpoint.
At about 12:41 a.m., Austin Corley was driving a 2012 Ford Fusion north on Island Drive, when he traveled onto the east shoulder and struck a guardrail, sign and two trees. The passenger, John Hardy "JJ" Golden, 26, of Eastpoint, suffered serious injuries as well.
Don Corley said Golden suffered a broken neck but no spinal cord injury in the mishap. Following a surgical procedure to repair bones in his neck, Golden was released from Bay Medical, Corley said.
Meanwhile, the prognosis for the son Corley raised in Eastpoint from birth is uncertain, other than doctors say it will be six months to a year, at the least, of rehab, likely at a facility in Jacksonville or Atlanta, Georgia.
A social worker at Bay Medical has arranged for a disability program that will cover what are likely to be enormous medical costs for Corley, said his father.
"He may be here for three or four months; he’s not going anywhere for a very long time," said Corley. "I don’t see any reason to try a GoFund me or anything. I feel like it’s begging for something I don’t really need right now."
Because of this timeframe, Corley is not supportive of and is not advocating for a fundraising page set up by his son’s mother.
"If he goes to rehab for an extended period, there may come a time where we have to do that. I think they (fundraising pages) can be helpful, but it’s four or five months out before" that might come about," said Don Corley.
As he awaits the future in the hospital waiting room, taking only occasional breaks to shower and rest at his brother-in-law’s house in Panama City, Corley said he has been bolstered by messages from Dakota Massey and his mom.
On August 4, 2015, Masey, going home after work in Carrabelle, was involved in a head-on collision with an oncoming semi-truck.
Massey suffered fractures of vertebrae, back, hip, femur and most of the bones in his face, as well as severe trauma to his brain. He was treated at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital’s Bixler Trauma & Emergency Center, and then assigned to the Vogter Neuro Intensive Care Unit (VNICU), where he remained for close to five weeks, 27 days of which in a coma. He underwent several surgeries and very gradually began to recover.
Once Dakota was released from TMH, he was treated at several rehabilitation centers. Three years after Dakota’s traumatic accident – after numerous setbacks and grueling hours in therapy – Dakota is able to fish, hunt and enjoy the outdoors again; something he loved before the collision.
"It’s given us so much hope," said Don Corley. "His story is so inspirational, what he came back from."