HOUSTON -- For Chance Bothe, the realities of texting while driving are as obvious as the scars on his reconstructed face.
"I’m very lucky that I’m not gone forever," said Bothe, 21, on his last day of in-patient rehabilitation at TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston. "I still have things to do in this world."
Bothe’s painful medical saga began on January 24, 2012, driving from college to his home in Granado, 30 miles west of Wharton. He was texting a friend while he drove.
"I need to quit texting because I could die in a car accident and then how would you feel…," he typed.
His final text was "b right there."
Moments later, Bothe’s pickup truck veered off a bridge and plunged 35 feet into a ravine. Rescued from the truck seconds before it caught fire, Bothe suffered traumatic brain injuries, a broken neck, a punctured lung, compound leg fractures, a fractured skull, sternum and rib fractures, and a fractured face that would require extensive reconstruction.
"I said, ‘Call the funeral home. He’ll never make it,’" Bobby Bothe admitted he said after he’d been told of his son’s extensive injuries. "We lost him three times. They brought him back. He coded three times."
But Chance Bothe defied the odds and began his rehabilitation at TIRR. He had to learn to walk again. His brain injuries have had an effect on his personality. His dad estimates that 80-percent of his son has returned six months after the accident. But that’s enough of a percentage for Chance Bothe to understand the message he can now send about the dangers of texting and driving.
"They just need to understand don’t do it. Don’t do it. It’s not worth losing your life," he said. "I went to my grandmother’s funeral not long ago. And I kept thinking, it kept jumping into my head: ‘I’m surprised that’s not me in that casket.’ I came very close to that. To being gone forever."
"If I had a kid 16 years old starting to drive, they could have a phone but the texting feature wouldn’t be on it. That’s how strongly I believe it. It about took him," said Bobby Bothe.
"Unfortunately we’re seeing more and more patients here that had their brain injuries as a result of texting and driving. And unfortunately I don’t think we’re going to see a decrease in that anytime soon," said Jacob Joseph, MD with the Specialty Rehabilitation Program at TIRR Memorial Hermann.
Bothe, who may still face additional surgeries and rehabilitation, promises that he will spread the message about the dangers of texting and driving for the rest of his life.
"What people have told me is the reason God didn’t keep you away from this Earth is because you have something special to do. And I believe what is special is that I should tell everyone not to text message and drive," he said.