Determination resounds in Adam Schwindt's voice when he says he will be pitching again for the University of San Diego baseball team.
There is a chance he will never throw a ball again, but you believe him when he tells you he will. You believe in part because of that spirited attitude, but mostly because it is amazing that he can even utter the words. Or would want to.
Four weeks ago, Schwindt, a 20-year-old junior, was hit in the head by a batted ball in a pickup game at USD. After three hours of surgery at Sharp Memorial Hospital to help alleviate a blood clot near his brain, Schwindt was in a coma and in critical condition for 10 days.
When he came out of the coma doctors feared that he would never read or write again and that his high-level thought processes might be lost for good.
A week and a half ago, a neurosurgeon told his father, John Schwindt, he thought Adam would be in the intensive care unit for another three weeks. After that, his hospital stay was expected to last into the holiday season. But Schwindt has, in his own words, "bounced back."
He was released from Sharp Friday and was expected to be in his parent's Rancho Palos Verdes home before dinner.
"I had two seizures, and they thought I was going to fall back into (the coma). But I bounced back," Schwindt said. "In just one week, I just all of a sudden shot up. I've just gotten so much better."
He spoke those words without a slur, though he initially had speech problems.
"People tell me how bad I was at the start," he said. "They tell me I'm lucky. It showed me how close I came to falling apart."
Mike Zawalnicki, a Sharp Hospital rehabilitation specialist said, "In an accident like this, cognitive areas are really important--things like memory, personality, higher level functions, as well as the ability to eat, sometimes even to breath. In his case he was very lucky that it probably will not affect him long term in areas of thinking and thought process."
Schwindt was in great spirits, laughing and joking with his father and his brother, Andy, just before his release from Sharp.
Schwindt can read, write, walk, talk, and amazingly, remember what happened.
"Freak accident," Schwindt said. "I should have got the hell out of the way, or I should have caught it. But I remember it all. It was a three-and-two change up. It was low and outside. Actually, it was a good pitch. Apparently, the freshman who hit it has a knack for hitting the ball up the middle.
"I remember the team closed in pretty quick. . . . And I said my head hurt and my legs started to give out. I felt dizzy and faint, and then I don't remember anything until I woke up from the coma."
Said USD Coach John Cunningham, "It's kind of a remarkable story. It's not over yet by any means, but you can tell there's an inner something in him driving him to get better. Other than losing (25 pounds), he seemed totally normal to me."
And Schwindt has not lost his appetite for the game, nor his sense of humor.
"I just love the game so much," he said. "I understand that it was such a freak accident. I really don't think the dice are going to come up like that again.
"I really don't have any fear about getting out there. I can't wait to face the kid that hit me. He's going to see a little brush back."
He laughs hardest at that comment, because he knows it was his teammates who may have saved his life.
"They really responded amazingly well," he said. "They ran out to the street and found a cop and called for help. They wrapped me in a tarp to help keep me warm. They really did a great job, and I have a great deal of respect for them."
Schwindt, one of two biology majors on the team, said, "I used to rag on all the other guys because they were business majors. But not any more. No more rags. They basically saved my life."
Schwindt's dream of becoming a doctor has been intensified by the accident.
"It gives me more incentive," he said, "because I've seen the way they've put me back together. It's inspiring. I'd like someday to return the favor to someone.
"As for now, I'm just trying to keep my spirits up. The support I've gotten has really helped. I've gotten about 200 cards, (some) from people I haven't talk to in five years."
Minutes after Zawalnicki told him baseball was out for at least a year, Schwindt made his own prediction: "On Jan. 6, I'll be out on that baseball field ready to play."
A short silence in the room was interrupted by his father. "We'll talk," John said.
At this point, Adam Schwindt feels fortunate just to be able to talk baseball.