It started out as the perfect summer trip.
High-altitude training camp including hiking, running, cycling, and fishing in mountainous Mammoth California!
Derek, his girlfriend Amanda Post, high school friends Natalie Nield and Drew Delis, and athletic trainer John Adams made the trip and were returning home in an SUV when the accident occurred.
The driver drifted out of his lane and onto the shoulder, causing the SUV to flip, roll, and skid to a stop on its side, in the path of oncoming traffic.
Another van also heading to Mammoth athletic camp, carrying 12 cross-country runners and a coach, crashed into the SUV. Then, a sedan slammed into the pileup.
The SUV burst into flames.
In all, 15 people were injured and four were killed (his girlfriend and his best friends).
Derek said that he can only remember fragments of the scene, but he does remember telling someone: “Please, please call my dad and tell him we had an accident.’’
Doctors at Grossman burn center said his case is one of the worst they’d ever seen, and estimated his chances of survival at less than 1%.
The burns penetrated his muscles, kidneys, liver and lungs – all were on the verge of shutting down.
Derek’s life for the next eleven months was an unthinkable nightmare. The kind that breaks peoples’ hearts.
The 19-year-old high school student had burns to over 85% of his body.
When his father saw him in the hospital, he said, “All we could see were his eyes and one toe.’ He told his sons’ doctors: “Just get him to where he’s awake. And I know he’ll take care of the rest.”
After more than a year in the hospital and 42 surgeries later, he was able to come home.
He had beaten the odds. His strength and will to live far exceeded the doctor’s expectations.
His father says, “Derek has proven every time that he was stronger than his fear, that each step was another forward step in a positive direction.”
Derek’s survival story is inspiring, but even more than inspiring is his determination to continue living his life the way he always lived it, uninhibited by his annoying scars.
“I know that logically I shouldn’t be here and I shouldn’t be here,” the 20-year-old Encinitas resident said.
“And it’s kind of hard for me to come to grips with that, but I just have to be thankful every day.”
When I heard about Derek I was hit by a wave of sadness.
Then, I thought about my family. We are so blessed, and gratitude began to fill my heart.
I found myself wondering how I could turn my feelings into action.
I’ve decided to give a financial gift to honor Derek and to help children like him recover.
What can you do?
If you need any suggestions on how to help, contact us at www.ryanshines.com.
(Thanx to Burn Survivor Resource Community for information).