Six months later, Lewis ’09 discharged to rehab

After spending half a year in the hospital, Dan Lewis ’09 is finally preparing to return home.

As part of continuing recovery efforts following an accident during last summer’s Habitat for Humanity Bicycle Challenge, Lewis was moved Monday from the Denver Children’s Hospital to the Craig Rehabilitation Hospital, located in the same city. There, he will be enrolled in an eight-week physical therapy program to prepare him to return home.

“My metaphor is that he is on a hundred-yard football field, and he’s made it to the 50-yard line,” Dan’s father Hal Lewis told the News in an interview Monday.

He added, “We’re hopeful he’ll keep recovering.”

In July, Lewis was hit by a car on a desolate Kansas highway while biking cross-country as part of the Habitat for Humanity Bicycle Challenge. After the accident, he was treated for severe brain trauma and two broken legs, among other injuries, for two months at Via Christi St. Francis Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas.

Although he was unconscious for several months and has not been able to speak complete words since the accident, Lewis has shown gradual improvement over the past few months, the Lewis family has noted on the blog CarePages.com. By the end of December, he was able to hold his head up while sitting in a wheelchair. And as of Jan. 16, Lewis was able to bear his weight when helped to stand up. He is now also able to eat soft foods, such as yogurt and applesauce, for the first time since the accident.

In anticipation of his homecoming, Lewis’ family has already drawn up plans to expand and redesign the bottom floor of the Lewis residence to accommodate him as he continues to recover.

Lewis’ friends, including Brendan Gants ’08, said they keep up with his recuperation.

“Everyone wishes his recovery was a little quicker, but so far things have been good,” Gants said. “We’re hoping it stays that way and he comes back as soon as possible.”

Saybrook College Master Mary Miller said students continue to follow his progress through CarePages and support and concern is still visible — during reading period, for example, Saybrook held a holiday card signing for Dan.

Every summer since 1994, Yale students have cycled from New Haven to the West Coast, raising money for and awareness of the Habitat for Humanity mission, according to the organization’s Web site.

But for the past three years, bikers have experienced three accidents — two fatal. In 2006, Alexander Capelluto ’08 died after being hit by a truck while training for the Challenge in Connecticut. And one year prior, in 2005, Rachel Speight ’06 died after being hit while cycling through Kentucky.

After Lewis’ accident this year, the student board of directors for the Habitat for Humanity Bicycle Challenge decided in September to discontinue the biking element of the Habitat Challenge. Participants this summer will instead travel across the country on trains and buses instead of bicycles.

Despite the length of his hospitalization, Lewis’ family has remained optimistic about their son’s rehabilitation.

“I’ve whispered to him that the goal is for him to eat a big, juicy steak by the end of March,” Lewis’ father Hal wrote on CarePages on Jan. 16. “Why not shoot high?”

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