Man hit and nearly killed by car fights through to recovery

Man hit and nearly killed by car fights through to recovery
Tucker Bowman stands at the spot on Minda Drive in Eugene where he was struck and critically injured by a teenage driver’s eight months ago in a photo taken on Friday, Feb. 1, 2013. Six speed bumps — which his neighbors call “Tucker bumps” — have been installed along the street to slow down traffic. (AP Photo/The Register-Guard, Brian Davies)

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Tucker Bowman headed back to work Monday.

That may not seem like much to others immersed in the daily grind, but returning to his job is momentous for Bowman and his family.

Last June, a speeding car struck Bowman while he stood in the street near his north Eugene home, nearly killing him.

After eight months of recovering from severe injuries, Bowman was to return to his job Monday morning with the engineering and consulting firm CH2M Hill.

"It's a very big day," Bowman, 30, said.

Bowman's wife, Katy, said the couple are grateful for the support of family and friends.

The people at CH2M Hill, an international company, were especially kind by keeping her husband's job for him all this time, raising funds to help with family expenses and sending get-well wishes from around the world, she said.

"It was just incredible," Katy Bowman said during an interview.

The car that struck Bowman fractured his skull in three places. Every bone in his face was broken. His hip and thigh bone were broken. He had seven broken ribs and other injuries.

Bowman spent three weeks in critical condition at Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield, slipping into a coma for 10 days and developing a blood clot in his lungs.

He went into respiratory failure and was hooked to a breathing machine for two weeks.

But Bowman, a father of two young daughters and stepdad to a 13-year-old boy, refused to give in to his injuries.

He finally started getting better.

After being moved to Sacred Heart Medical Center University District, Bowman came home in August and spent the months since regaining his mental and physical abilities through therapy.

"I always tell him how proud of him I am because some people would have fallen apart," said Katy Bowman, financial manager of the NeuroSpine Institute in Eugene. "But he wanted to get better. And he really worked so hard. It's been an honor to watch him."

Bowman, listening to his wife, said, "You are going to make me cry."

Bowman's near-death traumatized his family, his neighbors and the 16-year-old driver who hit him.

But the experience reinforced the couple's beliefs about never taking loved ones for granted.

The tragedy also contributed to the city installing six speed bumps on the street next to the Bowmans' home.

The bumps, one of which is near where Bowman was hit, are an attempt to curb the longstanding problem of motorists speeding in the neighborhood.

"The collision triggered the whole neighborhood to get something done," said Dwain Murphree, who lives across the street from Bowman.

Minda Drive is a neighborhood street used by local residents. But it also gets a lot of cut-through traffic because it connects a pair of busy streets.

Constructed years ago before modern street designs intended to slow traffic became common, Minda Drive is wide and straight, and it doesn't have stop signs along its nearly half-mile length.

Those conditions contribute to motorists driving faster than the 25 mph speed limit, city transportation planning engineer Chris Henry said.

Before Bowman was hit and the speed bumps were installed, some motorists drove down Minda at more than 60 mph, resident Jason Davis said. "It was amazing how fast they would go," he said.

Bowman and his wife eight years ago bought their three-bedroom, 960-square-foot home on Minda Drive.

Like many first-time homebuyers, they were focused on the house, not on the street and traffic speeds.

It didn't take long, however, for the couple to notice how fast drivers went.

Similar to his neighbors, Bowman sometimes would yell at motorists to slow down. Occasionally he would step a couple of feet into the street with a raised hand up to get their attention.

"They would flip you off," Bowman said.

Bowman recalls little about what happened on June 12.

He said he was watering bushes on the side of his house around 9:30 p.m. when he took a couple of steps onto Minda Drive, in order to pull more of the garden hose to where he was watering.

"The only thing I remember is seeing a car drive by me real fast," he said.

That car, a Jeep sport utility vehicle driven by a 16-year-old boy, was being followed by another car, also driven by a 16-year-old boy. The second car, a 1992 Toyota Camry, struck Bowman, knocking him about 40 feet down the street.

Murphree, Bowman's neighbor, had just settled into his living room to watch TV. Murphree's wife, who was outside and heard the collision, pounded on the front door, yelling that somebody had been hit by a car.

Murphree and his 21-year-old son ran to Bowman, who was lying on his back.

Murphree didn't recognize him. It was dark, and Bowman's face was covered with blood.

"I'm trying to find a pulse on his neck," Murphree said. "And I turned to my son and said, 'Let's roll him over.' After we did that, he started coughing."

Murphree cradled Bowman's head in his arm until paramedics arrived.

"It only took about three or four minutes, but it felt like it took forever," Murphree said.

Both of the young drivers had stopped, police said.

Murphree said the teenager who hit Bowman was "very, very upset."

Katy Bowman said police told her the car that struck her husband was traveling between 40 and 50 mph.

The Register-Guard does not publish the names of suspected juvenile offenders unless they are accused or convicted of major crimes.

Rob Selven, casework supervisor with Lane County Youth Services, said the boy last year was put on probation.

Under the probation terms, the teenager is not allowed to drive a vehicle for the duration of his probation, which could last until he turns 18. He also is required to complete 80 hours of community service, and he had to write an apology to the Bowmans.

The Bowmans said they could have asked authorities to seek harsher penalties for the boy, but they chose to respond with forgiveness instead of malice.

"It was just a traumatic event for everyone involved," Katy Bowman said. "Tucker and me want to make sure that everyone heals from the accident."

A scar runs across the top of Tucker Bowman's forehead.

He said he can do most things as well as before, but he said he probably will be affected by the severe brain injury the rest of his life.

"I don't think I will ever get back to being 100 percent," Bowman said.

Watching basketball on TV, Bowman sometimes has a hard time following the ball. Sometimes he forgets things. He lost his hearing in his left ear and wears a hearing aid.

Yet Katy Bowman said her husband has fared better than many people with brain injuries. He has avoided the anger and depression experienced by some people with similar injuries, she said.

Bowman was a kind and considerate person before he was hit, she said. Since then, he shares his feelings more openly.

"He tells me that he loves me 50 times a day," she said. "And his relationships with his girls and his stepson mean so much to him. He would show it before, but he says it now."

"Some people would have fallen apart."

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Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.