Put One Foot In Front of the Other - The Luke Siegel Story
“Every time I see a clock and it’s 2 o’clock, I think about the time I received that phone call,” Tim Siegel said. “Our family hasn’t been the same since that moment on July 28, 2015.” Siegel is referring to the kind of telephone call every parent dreads; a call notifying him that his 9-year-old son, Luke, had been critically injured in an accident. In the blink of an eye the Siegel family was changed forever.
Luke Siegel suffered head trauma and skull fractures when the golf cart he and a friend were riding in overturned. After spending over a month at University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas, Luke was transferred to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, for rehabilitation services. After four months at Cook, Luke and his family returned home to continue daily therapy. In recent months Luke spent two weeks in therapy at the Cerebrum Health Center in Fort Worth and soon he will spend time at the Neurological Recovery Center also in Fort Worth where he will have the benefit of a treadmill-type machine that replicates walking motion as well as other therapies.
The Siegel family was told soon after the accident that based on an MRI Luke would never use his voice, open his eyes or use his limbs. “After Luke was taken to the hospital following the accident he was in cardiac arrest and for the first three days we didn’t know if he was going to make it,” Luke’s father said. “From day one Luke has proven how he can fight. In an hour therapy session it might take 50 minutes, but Luke will always try to do what we ask.” Luke continues with daily therapy that includes speech, physical therapy and occupational therapy and is showing improvement. “We’ve had wonderful therapists who work so hard for him. Luke has improved head control and movement of his arms and legs on command. Where we’ve seem improvement is that now Luke can swallow very small amounts of crushed frozen lemonade and popsicles. I miss being able to communicate with him but that’s coming too. I’m involved with the therapy sessions as much as possible. I’m there to be his coach and his dad.”
Luke’s family continues to involve him in the things he loves. “Luke always had a ‘never give up’ attitude. He is a fighter and very competitive,” his father said. “He loved the New Orleans Saints football team. We have attended several Saints games and we will keep going.” Recently the Siegel family traveled to New Orleans, La., to attend a Saints’ practice and watch their favorite team play the Seattle Seahawks. The Saints’ quarterback, Drew Brees, spoke with Luke at the practice encouraging him and telling Luke that one day he would throw a pass to him. The inspirational meeting was covered by New Orleans Fox News and in the interview Luke’s father expressed the importance of the connection. “He [Brees] is such a great person, such a role model, we're so blessed to have someone like that lead our team and lead our community and Luke just idolizes him, he's his hero,” Siegel said. “Outside of therapists and doctors, he's been the most important person for us, in the healing.” The Saints quarterback sent a video message to Luke last year. “I play Drew’s video to Luke and I believe it keeps him going,” Siegel said. “We shared a passion for the Saints and that won’t change. Before, we played catch every day – football or baseball. We don’t get to do that anymore, but now I take Luke for a walk around the neighborhood every night. I talk to him about sports and I play his music for him.”
Serving as the head men’s tennis coach at Texas Tech University in Lubbock for 23 years, Siegel retired from his responsibilities at the university just 20 days before his son’s accident. “I loved everything about Texas Tech and my job there, but I wanted to spend more time with my family and not have to travel.” Little did he know the significance of this decision. The coach is now the tennis coach for middle school and high school at Lubbock-Cooper ISD. “The school district has been incredibly supportive,” Siegel said. “Although Luke should be attending fifth grade [in elementary school], he now attends Laura Bush Middle School in the mornings where I am coaching tennis and two of our daughters, Kate and Ellie, attend school. Our oldest daughter, Alex, who is a nurse, is with Luke while he’s at school so our family is together,” Siegel said. “My wife, Jenny, is a nurse practitioner. She has been the rock of the family! Our entire family is working on this together as a team.”
The family recently announced the formation of the Team Luke Foundation with a mission to bring awareness and provide critical support and assistance to families of children who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. “We’re close to putting together the board of directors and should have everything in place by the end of the year” Siegel said. “I want to help other families emotionally, as well as financially, now that I realize how much emotional support you need to get through something like this. It is difficult to know how we can survive even though I know in my heart we will. I feel I have to do this to help others but also to help me get through this experience. I want to make a difference in lives while I’m helping Luke.”
Tim Siegel is also reaching out to help other young people by speaking to youth groups such as high school football teams and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “After Luke’s accident I experienced anger and depression and shut people out,” he said. “I really didn’t know how I could keep things together. One day I was driving to the grocery store and someone that I’ve never met lowered his car window and said, ‘I’m praying for you. Put one foot in front of the other.’” This experience had a tremendous impact on Siegel and he began to realize that he might be able to help others during this very difficult time.
“’Put one foot in front of the other’ became my motto,” Siegel said. “I’ve always enjoyed speaking and realized that I wanted to be able to impact young people in addition to my role as a coach.” He put together a message that applied to his own experiences with the intention of helping others as well. “I have five points that help keep me going:
•Find your passion. I lost my passion but am regaining it through my work with the Team Luke Foundation.
•Don’t ever quit. I have a son who works hard and he’s living this message.
•Lean on your friends, family, teachers and God. I stopped doing this, but have started again and it is making a difference.
•Make good choices. Be careful. Everyone assumes that bad things won’t happen to them.
•Have faith. My faith is tested every day.
Luke Siegel’s story has captured the attention of thousands in his hometown as well as throughout the United States. This support helps Luke’s family cope with the many challenges they face. Many local businesses have raised money to help with medical expenses. Tim Siegel shares regularly on the Pray for Luke Facebook page and at @Luke.Siegel on Instagram. More than 70,000 viewed a recent video on Facebook showing Luke moving his arm with the encouragement of his father who described the video as “my favorite over the last 15 months.”
Another Facebook message from Tim Siegel describes the father’s thoughts while Luke was in Dallas for a week of therapy at the Cerebrum Health Center. “Tomorrow we will get up early. 8 a.m. therapy begins. I am praying and praying and praying for progress. One thing is certain – Luke will work as hard as he can.” Another thing that is certain – the Siegel family along with many friends and people they have never met will be surrounding Luke with love and encouragement every step of the way. His father and coach said it best, “You know no one’s ever going to give up on Luke.”
Tim may be reached at email@example.com
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