Jerry and Kristie Whited, of Dolores, invite the community to a homecoming party for their son, Joey, who was injured in a motorcycle accident in September.
The event will be March 2 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Dolores Outfitters, 341 Railroad Ave. There will be food and drinks served.
“We invite everyone to come out, and want to thank the community for all of their tremendous support,” Whited said.
Joey, 15, suffered a brain injury and has been undergoing surgeries and treatment in Denver hospitals since the accident.
A medically induced coma was used to aid his recovery, and he needed surgeries to relieve pressure on his brain. He also had surgery to rebuild an injured finger.
His recovery has been slowly progressing, and will take a lot more time, Jerry Whited said. Joey is breathing and starting to eat on his own, and has been showing his “laughing spirit.”
“He will have to relearn everything, including speech,” Whited said. “The process of the brain healing can take up to five years. We are hopeful, and are keeping a positive attitude.”
Joey is restricted to a wheelchair, and the family has been busy retrofitting the house for his return home Feb. 28. A wheelchair ramp was recently installed by members of the Dolores Fire Department.
“Having him back in Dolores, hearing and seeing people he knows and is familiar with will help with the healing process,” Whited said. “His many friends keep asking about him, and the cards in his hospital rooms literally cover the walls. He is a tough kid.”
All around town are “Joey Strong” signs, and people wear T-shirts with the inspirational message as well.
“It has been really heart-warming to see the town come together, forget our differences and support a young kid in need,” he said. “We want to continue that spirit at the homecoming party.”
The Whiteds are also especially thankful for the understanding and support of their employers. Jerry is a firefighter and EMT for the Ute Mountain Ute Fire Department, and Kristie is a medical assistant at the Dove Creek Community Clinic.
Jerry and Kristie stayed with their son side for two months while he was at Denver Health Medical Center, and then Craig Hospital in Englewood. When Jerry returned to work, he would work four days, then drive back to Denver.
“Joey is ready to come home. I’ve been kidding him that I need help shoveling snow, and he just chuckles, so I know he understands.”
Medical expenses are a challenge, Whited said, as well as the construction costs to make the house more accessible to him. Long-term care costs are also on the horizon.
But the money troubles are nothing compared with the joy of their son surviving the accident, coming home and being on the path to recovery.
“He’s been my shadow, and to see him go through this has been tough,” Whited said. “It was a terrible accident, but we are going to get through it and keep on going.”
Donations toward Joey’s recovery can be made through an account at First Southwest Bank in Cortez.