■ Mary Ann Morris / Editor
Richard and Jessica Tusant were in a quandary. Their son, Nick Tusant, is recovering in a children’s rehabilitative facility in Loma Linda from injuries sustained when, while walking to school March 24, he was hit by a distracted driver. The Tusants live in Hemet, which is quite the trek up Lamb Canyon – especially in a temperamental 2000 Saturn LS with no air conditioning. While it only had 105,000 miles on it, it kept breaking down.
“It needs a lot of repairs. The rear brakes are gone, and the front struts need to be replaced. It doesn’t’ have air conditioning, which really sucks in this heat,” said Richard. The Tusants had given up on repairing the Saturn and rented a car in order to make their daily visits with their son, which are vital to his emotional well-being and recovery.
Local repair shops helped out a few times with the Saturn, but new problems kept cropping up, like an electrical short in the headlights. “Mostly minor problems,” said Richard, “but we just didn’t have the time to put it in the shop, or the money to pay for it.”
That’s when Gosch Auto Group stepped up to the plate and volunteered to help them out, as reported in the June 27 edition of The Valley Chronicle. It took a while, said Richard, but Gosch found the perfect trade-in vehicle to gift the family – a 2013 Ford C-Max hybrid with 123,000 miles on it.
“They paid the license, title and registration fees,” said a grateful Richard by phone Tuesday. “Today was the first time I didn’t have to floor it going up Lamb Canyon. The car runs great.”
The number of miles already clocked by the C-Max doesn’t bother Richard any, though. “To us it’s a luxury car – it’s the newest car we’ve ever owned,” he said. “The newest car we ever had before this was a 2006 PT Cruiser, and we bought it in 2012.”
Nick was walking to West Valley High School on March 24 when he was hit by a truck driven by Giles Gervais, 71, of Hemet. Witness and police accounts state Nick was in the crosswalk near the intersection of Mustang Way and Morgan Hill Road when the accident occurred. The early-morning collision left him in a coma for weeks and with multiple serious injuries, including a broken pelvis, broken facial bones, partial paralysis and traumatic brain injuries. He also suffered a stroke. He was unresponsive at the scene and was transported by air ambulance to Riverside County Regional Medical Center Trauma Center.
Gervais told police that he had looked down to his passenger seat to make sure he had some items with him that he was going to need for an out-of-town trip. He claimed he never saw Nick in the crosswalk. There was one eyewitness, a fellow student, who confirmed that Nick was in the crosswalk at the time of the impact. According to the police report, Gervais was found to be at fault in the collision.
Nick was in a coma for weeks and had multiple surgeries, including a craniotomy, which involves removing a portion of the skull so that the brain can swell, a tracheotomy and a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) feeding tube. The trach was removed the day before his 17th birthday, which was considered a watershed moment in his recovery. There are plans to replace the cranial flap that was removed during his craniotomy. His progress is nothing less than amazing, according to his family and his doctors. And while the PEG tube remains, it’s not being used.
“That will be the last thing they remove before he goes home, hopefully in the beginning of August,” said Richard. Not only is Nick back to eating real food again, “his appetite is back to normal. He’s eating like a typical teenage boy.”
“We have faith that he will fully recover,” said Richard. “He will have some impairments, but we are confident they can be corrected or controlled through therapy or medication.”
Some of the continuing health issues caused by the accident are emotions Nick has trouble controlling, high blood pressure and astigmatism in both eyes.
“The right eye is much worse, but can be corrected with glasses,” said Richard. The changes in his emotions are a little more difficult to treat, especially since his brain is in the process of rewiring itself. “He seems to feed off of emotions right now. When everyone is upbeat and happy, so is he. He’s in a great mood. But when depression sets in or he gets upset when we have to leave for the evening, it’s tough for everyone.”
He was approved to stay at the rehab facility in Loma Linda for another month, so he will be working extra hard before he comes home, says Richard. “His left hand is starting to fire up,” he said. “We are ramping up physical therapy and work him hard so he can get the most out of the time he has left here.”
New workouts to Nick’s therapy include standing with the aid of a walker, with baby steps to follow.
“It’s a tall walker, so he can rest his elbows on it. We’ve got a crew of people to hold him up while he stands so he can start to move his legs and build back the muscles,” said Richard.
Nick’s medical bills thus far have exceeded $1.3 million. GoFundMe and YouCaring accounts have been set up in Nick’s name to assist with medical and rehabilitative expenses. To date, more than $8,400 has been raised, but the account has been stagnant for some time. GoFundMe takes 7.9 percent of donations as administrative fees. No donations have yet been made to the YouCaring account. Make Nick’s day. Send funny cards and thoughts of encouragement to Nick Tusant, 3507 W. Stetson Ave., #238, Hemet, California, 92545.