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Teen-Ager Who Was in Coma Attends Graduation With His Class

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nearly a year after a near-fatal automobile accident, Brant Theurer’s progress still is measured by small victories.

They come slowly but surely: Walking a few steps with help. Giving the thumbs-up sign. Typing “I love you” to his father, Mike, on a laptop computer.

But Thursday night, Brant took another sizable step on the road to recovery. Surrounded by relatives and friends who stood by him through many months in a coma, Brant attended the graduation ceremonies of his class at Paraclete High School.

Brant, a patient at the Meridian Neuro Care facility in Santa Ana, did not graduate because he was in a coma for most of the school year. But he wore a cap and gown and received an award from the principal, Father William Caffrey.

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“We gave him the award for spirit,” Caffrey said. “He motivated all of us on how we look at our lives.”

It has been a grueling and uncertain haul since last summer for Brant, a former football player who turns 18 on June 16.

Last July 29, Brant and three friends were returning from a football camp in Los Angeles when the driver fell asleep, and the Ford Bronco in which they were riding crashed on the Antelope Valley Freeway near Acton.

His friends suffered only minor injuries, but Brant, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown from the vehicle. Brant’s spinal cord was not damaged, but his brain was badly bruised and bled. He was not expected to survive.

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Brant was in a coma until February. During those months, his parents tried to pull him back to consciousness. They played for him videotapes of Paraclete’s football games and tape recordings of Coach Steve Hagerty giving instructions at the games and at practices.

The sounds and images seemed to reach Brant. His muscles tensed and his head and arms moved slightly when the tapes were played.

His improvement since then has been steady. He has gained limited mobility and uses a wheelchair. His speech is impaired, but Linda Lew, a speech therapist at Meridian, said Brant is making progress.

The long-term prognosis, Mike Theurer said, is unclear--not only for Brant’s recovery but also for his care. The family’s health insurance ran out recently, and the Theurers have been tapping other sources for money.

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