ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — A Fort Collins teen is speaking out for the first time after a hit and run driver changed his life forever.
“It’s the classic line, life changes in an instant but no one knows that until it really happens,” said 16-year-old Connor Walsh.
The instant that changed Walsh’s life happened on March 10, during his walk to class at Poudre Valley High School.
“I wasn’t near the road or anything and I just remember waking up in kind of a phase and I didn’t know what was happening,” Walsh said.
Walsh and his mother Heather Zoccali would soon learn that a driver swerved into the bike lane where Connor was walking, struck him and took off. Later that day 36-year-old Reginald Loewen turned himself in. Police said he wasn’t under the influence of any substance but may have fallen asleep.
“He has to get up every day and live with what he did and he’s going to have to explain to his children what he did,” Zoccali said. “So that’s his bag to carry. It’s not ours.”
“I’d just say, ‘Why did you run?’” Walsh said. “That’s about it. That’s the only thing I want to know.”
Walsh has had plenty of other things to concentrate on during rehab at Craig Hospital. He’s been learning how to adjust to life in a wheelchair. Doctors gave him just a 10 percent chance of walking again.
“It’s 80 percent mental, 20 percent physical,” Walsh said. “It’s mostly mental. You have to have a sharp mind, you have to have a positive outlook, you have to have everything.”
Connor says he does have everything thanks to visits from friends and classmates back home and an outpouring financial support online. He’s also received encouragement from the first responders who rescued him.
“I’m very thankful I’ve had them,” he said. “Thanks to everyone. There’s not enough words to say.”
He also proudly wears a back brace that features the Superman logo above Horsetooth reservoir. He says it represents his new title as Superman of Fort Collins.
“I just got a broken back and a few scrapes and a bruised rib, so I’m very grateful and I took that as Superman,” Walsh said with a smile.
Walsh is set to leave Craig Hospital and return home on Thursday, but the family won’t be in their home for long. In June they’re moving to a new place in town, which will better accommodate his wheelchair.
Learn more about Connor’s journey and fundraising efforts here.