Grayson Walker home and on the mend
After a month of being in a Charlotte hospital, recovering from being hit by a car, Grayson Walker came home Wednesday.
To the sight of “Welcome Home” balloons bouncing in the wind outside his family's house in Hudson, Walker, 15, walked in wearing a blue helmet over the spot where he is still missing a section of skull, and a bright smile on his face.
Inside, more balloons floated over the living room and across the dining room ceiling. Relatives filled the house, eating store-bought chicken and biscuits and homemade mashed potatoes and cole slaw. The family's large, gray cat had sat on the sheet cake and blurred the “Welcome Home, Grayson” written in bright green icing.
Grayson’s mom, Misty Walker, hovered around her son, asking if he needed his soda opened or if he wanted more chicken. While everyone was happy, there was also a sense of worry in the air. Grayson still has a long road of recovery ahead.
On Feb. 25, the family's beloved, 7-month-old pit bull, Isabell, was hit by a car and killed about 7 a.m. in the the middle of Fairwood Drive at the end of Jordan Place. Grayson’s older brother Josh found Isabell and ran into the house, screaming that she had been hit. The family rushed out to bring her inside. Grayson was in the street by the dog's body when he was hit by a Hyundai Elantra.
“The next thing I knew," Misty Walker said, "I heard a smack, and Grayson went in the air like head over heels twice and then fell lopsided.”
For Walker, it is hard to talk about the accident. She bravely trudges through the story, reliving the scene in her mind for the millionth time.
“By the time I got to him, which was probably four or five seconds, blood was everywhere -- his mouth, his ears, his nose -- and I put his head up to my chest, and I said, ‘Please, Grayson, please just breathe.’ And, I said, ‘Lord, please don’t let anything happen to my son.’”
Her eyes fill with tears, and she looks down at the table in disbelief. “If Josh wouldn’t have screamed when he did, I would have been hit, too.”
Dabbing at tears with a party napkin, her voice shakes when she says, “I don’t know what I would have done if I’d lost my son.”
It is Isabell’s death that brings Grayson to tears. Talking about his lost pet is harder than describing his time in the hospital or what little he remembers about being hit.
“I’m glad your brain blocks out most of the stuff that hurts really bad,” Grayson said, speaking slowly. Speech is still difficult for him, but if it weren't for the helmet and some minor scarring, you might not be able to tell he had come so close to being killed.
Sitting on the couch, finally at home, he hugged Stella, a Great Dane/pit bull puppy, to his chest as his eyes became glassy with tears.
“I’m just glad to be back to see my puppy and my two cats. And, I’ve got two hamsters, too. Their names are Jimmy and Tommy,” Grayson said.
Isabell received a proper funeral and was buried in the backyard. Grayson plans to do something for her, such as making a special memorial for her grave.
His mother explained: “She was our first real pet, you know?”
The accident has set Grayson back in his development -- he has to relearn some things that used to be second nature. Over the course of his therapy, he will need to work on his short-term memory, eye perception and speech. Right now, he talks slowly and takes time to make sure he says words clearly.
Walker is both proud of him and frustrated at the ordeal. “He’s so smart. He was becoming an adult, and now, it’s like he kind of has stepped back into child-like…” she said, trailing off. “Everything’s just changed. He’s lost a whole month of his life.”
In two weeks, Grayson will return to the hospital in Charlotte so surgeons can put back the piece of his skull that they had removed shortly after the accident to relieve the swelling of his brain.
Grayson does not act self-conscious about his helmet but said he would not decorate it. He is disappointed that he will not be able to return to school for the rest of the year, saying, “I really just want to see my friends again.” But, he will start going to church “every Sunday,” he said.
Walker added, “He really didn’t believe in God before. He’ll tell you, ‘Now I know He’s the only reason I’m here.’”
The driver whose car hit Grayson, a woman who lives nearby and was taking her young daughter to school, will not be charged in the accident, which frustrates Walker.
“Evidently, in the state of North Carolina, pedestrians only at a crosswalk have the right of way. That’s what I was told by (Highway Patrol Trooper Troy) Stutts,” Walker said.
Grayson said he feels only “a little” anger at the driver, and he talked about her calmly. “She’s probably really sad about it, too,” he said.
Instead, Grayson is focused on getting a new puppy. On Wednesday, the family traveled to the local animal shelter, “just to look,” Walker said. Soon, there could be a new puppy for Stella to play with, and Walker hopes Grayson eventually will be interested in driving again.
“He had already taken his driver’s ed, the book work, and he was going to start driving for his test,” Walker said. “Well, he won’t do that because he’s scared. It’s not fair to him. He was so excited about driving. Now, he won’t be able to do that because he’s scared. It breaks my heart that he’s scared.”
With as quickly as Grayson has recovered, Walker believes life will transition back to normalcy smoothly.
“The Lord has really, really blessed him," she said. "We’ve just been so blessed with everything.”