'I'm just lucky to be alive'
As the Pilot Point softball team bus headed home after its March 21 win against Gunter, the players noticed a motorcycle mangled in a tree with its headlights piercing through the dark Tuesday night.
The bus pulled over and there was a man lying in a nearby ditch about 15 yards away from the bike.
The man was Pilot Point teacher and coach Daryl Hellman.
Hellman remembers watching the softball game and leaving the parking lot. But it’s the four miles leading up to the accident that’s a distant memory.
“I don’t remember the events leading up to the accident or what happened two weeks after,” Hellman said. “All I can remember is what people have told me.”
No one truly knows exactly how the accident unfolded, but after some speculation, the best conclusion is that as Hellman was riding down FM 121 west and something caused his bike to careen off the highway and into the tree, sending Hellman’s body flying.
“I’ve heard theories that maybe it was some cattle or pigs or maybe a dog that caused me to swerve,” Hellman said. “Whatever it was flashed by so abruptly.”
Hellman was transported by helicopter to the Medical Center of Plano and stayed for about a week for further evaluation.
After the extended stay in Plano, Hellman is currently attending the Baylor Center in Frisco for daily neurology treatment. Hellman is unable to operate a vehicle so his wife transports him there and back.
Because Hellman wasn’t wearing a helmet, the impact from the collision with his head to the ground caused severe head trauma, including memory loss. Hellman also suffered injuries to his ankle and shoulder as well as minor cuts to his cheek and chin.
The road to recovery has been a gradual process for Hellman.
“I couldn’t walk by myself at first, so I had to use a walker,” Hellman said. “I also used a wheelchair to move around and when I could finally walk, I was leaning to right a little bit.”
Hellman will meet with doctors and therapists on May 2 and he hopes to pass a series of assessments so he can return to teaching and coaching. The next step is to transition from day neurology to outpatient treatment.
“I want to be back in the classroom before the year’s out and I want to be driving my car which I’m not allowed to drive.”
Right now life for Hellman is frustrating, but it beats the alternative.
“I’m thankful that I’m alive,” Hellman said. “If I had hit a tree with my body or maybe an oncoming car, it could’ve been a lot worse.”
The up close encounter with death has left Hellman appreciative of the small graces in life.
“When I was in the hospital, so many people called or came by to check up on me,” Hellman said. “So now I want to be more thoughtful to people going through a tough time. A direct call goes a long way.
“I’ve missed my wife, my children and my athletes,” Hellman said. “I feel like I disappeared on them for a month. My main goal is to do the things necessary to get my independence back and rejoin my community.”