TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Life can change in an instant. It’s a common phrase that rings true for a local family.
Their lives changed when 16 year old Noah Griffith wrecked a dirt bike in Sullivan County on June 4th 2018 and suffered severe body trauma. It was the day that Noah’s effortless athletic abilities were taken along with his exceptional intellect. The one thing that did remain for the Griffith family was their faith that the same, funloving Noah would return.
Now 17 year old Noah Griffith walks a little differently through his Terre Haute home. But his parents are just happy to see a spring in his step. June 4th, 2018 Noah hopped on a friend’s dirt bike. Little did anyone know, it would be the last thing he did for a while.
Noah’s mother, Christy, was at work in Terre Haute when she noticed multiple calls from Noah’s phone.
“I picked up the phone and it wasn’t Noah. It was the EMTs telling me they were lifelining Noah to Methodist Hospital,” Christy said.
That’s all Christy was told for the next several hours.
“I got in my car and started screaming and asking God not to take him.”
Christy and Noah’s father, Jayson, drove to Methodist Hospital still not knowing what happened to their son. They say it was the longest trip to Indianapolis and things didn’t get any better once they arrived.
“They sent two chaplins out at that time and they were like Grim Reapers to us.”
It’s safe to say that was a reflection of the situation. Noah had wrecked the dirt bike into a metal barn, he suffered 13 serious injuries including head trauma, a collapsed lung and a shattered leg, doctors said he may have to lose. Medical staff knew if he had any chance of survival, they had to operate fast.
Jayson says it was a whirlwind of signing documents that entrusted strangers with their son’s life.
“Every time we had to sign a paper, we had to sign it right after they said and this could possibly kill him. And it’s like well, well, how do you sign that and at the same time you know if you don’t do it they would not continue to work on him,” Jayson said.
After hours of operation it was close to a week of waiting to see if Noah would wake.
“We didn’t realize how popular or how loved Noah was until just a flood of people came,” Christy said.
Not having much family in the area, the Griffiths saw support only after telling a few people what happened.
“Evidentally they got in trouble for how many people were in the waiting room itself, they were like, ‘look you gotta quit bringing these people there’s too many,'” Noah said.
“Without all of their support I don’t think I would do as well as I was doing. So I thank all of them for it,” Noah said.
Still, it was a long road ahead. When Noah did wake, he couldn’t figure out what was real, didn’t even know who his parents were.
“We were preparing for what if this is our reality,” Christy said.
But little by little, Noah would peek through, respond to direction like giving a thumbs up. He was moved to the progressive care unit where his outlook brightened and he was responding to nurses questions. This is when his parents realized the wonders of the human brain.
“He woke up one time and … He was looking down at his completely broken body and he was like, ‘this sucks, I’m going back to the beach house.’ And I was like, ‘what, you’ve been at a beach house?’ and we laugh about it now but i’m thankful that wherever he was, he was ok,” Christy said.
Noah says the beach house is one of his favorite spots in actual life. Being a Patriots fan, he enjoys spending time with his aunt who lives in Boston and he likes hanging out at the beach house.
“My hospital journey really wasn’t that bad,” Noah said.
After a week in emergency hospital care, Noah showed signs of improvement and within the next two months was moved into the progressive care unit relearning skills as simple as swallowing. Eventually, he moved to rehab which meant getting back on his feet.
“I can remember the first days and he would just not want to stand,” Jayson said.
“He couldn’t sit up,” Christy said.
But he was much more conscious. His memory, however, was shot. His parents had to retell him every day about the accident.
“It was hard because you had to explain to him, you know how bad it was and every time he would relive that shock of what had happened,” Jayson said.
The Griffiths say that one nurse in particular told them what he thought had happened, with Noah healing so quickly and able to communicate, was a miracle.
“He said ‘do you know you’re a part of the miracle club?’ and Noah was like, ‘no, what’s that mean?’ and he was like …
‘you’re a part of the miracle club, none of us can explain why you’re doing so well,'” Christy said.
It wasn’t until after noah took his first steps, was released from rehabilitation, returned to classes at South Vigo High School and went to a follow up appointment that the family realized his recovery was miraculous.
“The doctor asked him if he had gone back to school, and he’s like yeah, and he was disappointed in his grades and the doctor, she was like…
‘well, people who had your injury, they don’t go back to school, she said very rarely do they even get out of bed.’ so…” Jayson said.
In fact, Noah’s brain trauma was a Diffuse Axonal Injury grade 3 and there is no grade 4. However Noah’s standards for himself are set pretty high. Not only did he return to school, but signed up for advanced classes. Though, he realized he’d have more challenges to overcome.
“I used to make all A’s, had 3.7 – 3.8 GPA and now I make B’s and C’s and it drives me absolutely crazy because I never used to work hard to make those A’s and now I work super hard and I get B’s and C’s,” Noah said.
Noah says his biggest struggle is retaining information. But, his parents say that’s something they will gladly deal with.
“Ok, so we have to deal with a drop foot or some memory issues or something, but he’s here,” Christy said.
“He’s Noah. One of the big things they kept telling us is that he’s doing well but there may be some personality quirks where he is never the same kid he was before the accident and that was really hard for us to swallow,” Jayson said.
But Noah from before …
“Very outgoing, silly. He’s a good kid. He really is a lot of fun to talk to, he’s always been very well spoken, he’s just a lot of fun to be around just a really good solid individual … Everybody who meets him, loves Noah,” Christy said.
Did return. Just with a new incredible story. He was even re-instated to work at Fresh Thyme.
“They were like, ‘it’s good to see you back to normal, it’s good to see you back,'” Noah said.
After everything this past year, the Griffiths’ faith planted some new roots. With a new lease on life and family motto: Not to sweat the small stuff, the Griffiths are grateful.
It will be close to two years before Noah experiences a full recovery. He still goes to physical and occupational therapy. We learned from one of Noah’s doctors that there are many unseen challenges for people with brain injuries like mood swings and depression, but given such a strong support system Noah has, his doctor is sure his recovery will only continue to progress.