Having just graduated from Lassiter last May, Heitzman was airlifted to Grady Memorial Hospital on July 7 following a two-car accident on Trickum Road near Netherstone Drive that claimed the life of fellow Lassiter graduate and driver Ryan Aschenbach and injured Tyler Seaman, also a passenger and Lassiter graduate.
Heitzman spent 32 days at Grady and an additional four months at The Shepherd Center in Atlanta recovering from a major head injury along with a broken jaw, collar bone, shoulder blade and pelvis. He also had to overcome a lacerated kidney and liver, a ruptured bladder and collapsed lung.
He just had his trachea removed two weeks ago, and more surgery still awaits him. During his rehabilitation process, he has to relearn motor skills and communication.
The good news for the Heitzman family is that he has progressed over the last three months.
“He’s still coming along,” his father Randy Heitzman said. “He’s gotten to where he can feed himself finger food, fruits, and things like that that he’s able to put in his mouth. He’s also gotten to where he can take a drink bottle and put it up to his mouth.”
In regards of throwing the baseball, Chris is at the point where he can hold a baseball in throwing position but is still unable to release the ball — something he was unable to do three months ago.
Chris also gets into a walking frame every night where he can move his legs, Randy Heitzman said, but he doesn’t have the leg strength yet to walk on his own.
He’s yet to learn to talk but has gotten to the point where he can understand basic language and communicate by pointing. After having his trachea removed two weeks ago, he’s beginning to make sounds.
“He points to things that he wants,” Randy Heitzman said. “You give him choices, and he can pick out what he wants. He can understand everything you say. It’s a matter of teaching him how to respond. He’s going through speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy, all that stuff.”
When asked about his short-term goals, Chris’ mother Debbie Heitzman said the family is hoping that he will walk and talk by mid to late summer.
Chris, a pitcher who hit three home runs for Lassiter during the 2012 season, had planned to play baseball this year at Georgia College and State University.
“It’s one of those things where it’s a day-to-day process,” Lassiter coach Scott Kelly said. “Sounds like everyone is doing a good job in helping him get back to where he wants to be.”