When K-State fans Cody Clark and Michael Tysver, of Great Bend, Kan., left University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, Ariz. after the Wildcats’ Fiesta Bowl loss, the night was supposed to be on the way up.
“It was my 21st birthday, so we went back to the hotel, got ready, and went out around midnight, and just started bar hopping and whatnot, having a good time,” Tysver said.
At around 3 a.m., the group decided to head back to their hotels, and Tysver, Clark, and a friend made a decision that, at the time, seemed the safe and responsible thing to do; they hired a pedicab, a type of bicycle-pulled cab common in the Phoenix area, to take them home.
“We dropped our friend off at his hotel, and after that, I don’t really remember the ride,” he said. “I woke up in the hospital.”
Tysver’s pedicab was struck from behind by an alleged drunk driver traveling at over 40 mph as the cab attempted to merge into the left-turn lane. Tysver, Clark, and the pedicab driver were admitted to hospitals in Phoenix. The cab driver’s injuries were considered minor, but Tysver and Clark both sustained life-threatening injuries.
“Doctors didn’t expect him to make it out of surgery,” said Ashley Clanton of her brother Cody Clark, who has been in a coma for two and a half weeks since the accident.
Clanton, who said she was with Tysver and Clark before the accident but had taken a cab back to her hotel room earlier, found out about the accident when her mother called her at six in the morning. She says that her brother has been making slow, but steady progress recovering from the severe head trauma caused by the collision.
“Small steps excite us,” Clanton said. “He still has a long way to go. He’s still in a coma. He’s been opening his eyes, but there’s pretty bad brain damage.”
Clanton says her brother has managed to stay ahead of the timetables doctors placed on significant steps in his recovery so far. For example, Clark began to open his eyes a week and a half after the accident, a milestone doctors expected to take a month.
As for Tysver, who required immediate spinal fusion surgery after the impact separated his skull from his spine, the recovery process has been “pretty quick.”
“I can walk now, but I still wear a boot, and I have to use a wheelchair for long distances,” Tysver said.
He was transferred to a hospital in Wichita last week for inpatient therapy and expects to be released to go home to Great Bend within the next few days.
“Really, little things are going to take awhile, but it’s going great. I got pretty lucky there was no paralysis or anything.”
Tysver, who also suffered a broken leg in the accident, says doctors told him that 94 percent of people who suffer injuries like his die, and another 4 percent are paralyzed.
“It’s really miraculous,” he said. “I will only have about 50 percent of the movement in my neck, and there are things I’ll never be able to do again, but other than that I’ll be able to live a normal life.”
Clanton, who said she packed for three days when she left for the Fiesta Bowl, has been in Phoenix by her brother’s side since the accident.
“It’s completely uprooted our family,” she said. “My parents have jobs and stuff back home, so they’re planning on being in Kansas for probably a week every month.”
Clanton, a K-State student and employee with Aggieville Bars, says she’s enrolled in online classes and has found a subleaser for her Manhattan apartment, which will allow her to stay in Arizona as long as necessary. Doctors currently expect Clark to be hospitalized for three months and spend nine months rehabilitating before he can be transferred to a hospital closer to home.
“It’s been hard, with hotels and rental cars and everything, but it’s where we want to be,” Clanton said. “It’s definitely worth it.”
Tysver and Clark were students at Barton Community College in Great Bend, with the intention to transfer to K-State next fall. Tysver’s plans haven’t changed.
“After some time off, that’s the goal again,” he said. “I want to get back on that track.”
According to Officer David Pubins of the Scottsdale Police Department, Joseph Paul Spano, a Phoenix resident, was arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated assault and three counts of endangerment in the accident. Spano, 27, was behind the wheel of the 2012 Ford sedan that hit the pedicab from behind. An incident report on the Scottsdale PD’s website says that Spano showed signs of impairment that led to a DUI charge.
“His sentence could be anywhere from probation, which I doubt, up to numerous years in jail,” Pubins said in an email this week, adding that Spano will be sentenced after a criminal trial or a plea bargain. Spano is currently out on bail, but is required to appear in court.
The Manhattan community has been a source of support for Clark and Tysver’s families. A witness to the crash named Kinsey Schofield set up a campaign on indiegogo.com that has raised over $7,000 for the families since the accident. Aggieville Bars, Clanton’s employer, set up a fundraiser in which the proceeds and tips from a number of ‘Ville establishments were donated towards living expenses. The K-State football office also reached out to the families, expressing interest in doing something for Clark and Tysver in the future.
“It’s been really, really awesome,” Clanton said. “Incredible. I’m still surprised, to this day, how many people we don’t even know have been helpful and supportive. It’s amazing.”
For Clark’s family, the waiting game has just begun.
“A lot of it depends on his state when he wakes up,” Clanton said. “We’re not sure how his speech, his mobility or his memory will be. In about a month or so we’ll be able to tell which way he’s going. We’re preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best.”