Benefit planned for Travis Burkhart

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By Nate Smith, Staff Writer The Washington Times-HeraldThu May 29, 2008, 09:16 PM EDT

Travis Burkhart, a 23-year-old student at the University of Southern Indiana, had an accident while driving to class from his Plainville home in an ice storm earlier this year.

While the accident left Burkhart in a medically-induced coma, his recovery from the accident has inspired many in the area.

“It’s been overwhelming,” Kim Burkhart, Travis’ mother, said about the outpouring of support since the accident. “It’s been the entire county, not just one town and it’s the entire Daviess County community.” 

Some of those inspired are coming together Saturday to help with the mounting medical bills of Burkhart’s recovery and subsequent therapy. A benefit breakfast in Travis’ honor will be from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Antioch Christian Church, 3007E U.S. 50.

Kim Burkhart, speaking Thursday from Healthsouth in Evansville, where Travis is doing his recovery, said of the Feb. 12 accident, it was a miracle in itself that he survived.

“The car was completely destroyed,” Kim said. “The driver’s seat was untouched. It almost shielded him. It wasn’t his time to go, he was protected from the wreck and he’s been getting better and better every day.”

After the accident on SR 57 south of Washington, Travis was taken to first Daviess Community Hospital and then to Deaconess Hospital in Evansville with incapacitating internal head injuries. There, he was put in a medically induced coma and had several instruments attached including a feeding tube. Today, only the feeding tube remains.

Kim and her husband Mike have been staying in Evansville with the help of local churches New Hope Christian Church and Antioch. Officials at USI offered to help the Burkharts with housing on campus while Travis was in rehabilitation.

“Like I said there’s been so many blessings throughout this thing,” Kim said.

Last week while at Healthsouth, Travis threw away the neck brace. A feat that the Burkharts were proud to see.

“He actually pulled it off himself,” Kim said. “We were in therapy and the nurse came in and said ‘Travis, you don’t have to have that neck brace on anymore. You can take it off.’”

The therapists then unhooked the straps to the brace, the same brace for 14 weeks he has been in since the accident. The neck fracture of his vertebrae had healed in perfect alignment.

“The physical therapist said ‘If you don’t want it there, you’ve got to take it off.’ And he reached up with his left hand, pulled it off and threw it.”

The road ahead for Travis, Kim Burkhart said, is difficult to foresee because of the nature of traumatic brain injuries. Travis could wake up tomorrow with no problems at all, but he could also face up to two years of difficult therapy. He goes through therapy up to six hours a day.

“As long as he continues to progress, he could be there another four to six weeks,” Kim Burkhart said.

After his stay at Healthsouth, the physicians will make a decision on whether he can return home. If not, the Burkharts are looking into continuing Travis’ rehabilitation in Carbondale, Ill., at the Center for Comprehensive Services. The facility helped Daviess County resident Craig Carroll, who came home on March 28 after a brain trauma injury from an ATV accident.

The help the Burkharts have received, Kim said, has been tremendous. She said the family has been writing down favors that individuals and groups have given them, but there is no way to thank them all.

“We wouldn’t be where we are without individuals praying and the churches praying,” Kim said. “The financial support, the cards, the gifts. 

“You know they always say there’s a blessing in the storm and he has been blessed. It would be impossible for us to thank everyone individually. There’s just so many.”

Since so many have been interested in Travis’ recovery from the accident, a group on the social networking site Facebook.com has been set up. The group, “Prayers for Travis Burkhart and family,” has 636 members so far.

Saturday, Kim and Mike Burkhart will be at the benefit along with Travis’ brother Evan and sister Janae.

Lynn May, a friend of the Burkharts and one of the organizers of the breakfast, said they will serve breakfast for anyone who continues to show even after 11 a.m.

There is an account set up at First National Bank of Odon for donations to Travis’ recovery. Anyone willing to donate can stop by any of their branches.

On the web:

www.facebook.com, search for “Prayers for Travis Burkhart and family”