PARKER, Colo. (CBS4) – The Ponderosa High School Class of 2019 celebrated commencement on Tuesday at Echo Park Stadium in Parker. Among the 325 seniors was a young man who managed to graduate on time despite suffering a tragic accident.
Mitch Lukes spent three months in hospitals. His body was broken, his brain was injured, but Mitch is all about determination.
”If you want to do something, you’ve got to give it your all,” Mitch told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.
Conquering the slopes and barreling down mountains, that’s the way Mitch has lived his life. It’s also what nearly took it.
On Sept. 17, 2018, he was mountain biking in Whistler, British Columbia and crashed.
“I went in and overshot a jump and smacked the flat landing,” he said.
The teen broke bones in his pelvis, hips, leg and back. He developed a rare syndrome, associated with traumatic injuries, called fat embolism syndrome. It’s believed fat cells broke off from an injury and entered his bloodstream.
“For me this got caught in the lungs and brain and gave me a traumatic brain injury,” Mitch explained.
Hitch was in a coma. His parents were warned.
“You have to be ready when your son wakes up because he won’t be the same as he was before,” he said his parents were told.
Mitch worked hard to prove doctors wrong. After weeks in Canada, he was transferred to Craig Hospital in Englewood. He did therapy to mend physically and was finally able to stand in November.
“(I was) just getting lightheaded, it was such a change in altitude,” he said.
For months, Mitch worked his brain with a full-time teacher, Laura Magnuson, coordinator of the Craig Hospital School Program.
“I was able to help Mitch stay on track with his credits. His goal was very clear when I first met him, he wanted to graduate with his friends on time,” Magnuson said.
Mitch did it by sticking to the way he’s always lived his life, giving every task his all.
Family, friends, hospital staff and staff at Ponderosa High School have helped launch Mitch to college. He will attend Montana State University in the fall and study business. And he says he will get back on a bicycle and skis and enjoy all the outdoors have to offer.