On Saturday, Nov. 14, a parishioner of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, was searching for something to pray for when he happened upon the feast day for Blessed John Licci, the patron saint of head injuries.
Unbeknownst to him, Evan Steeves, a senior electrical engineering major at St. Thomas and the son of fellow parishioner Mark and Georgette Steeves, would be in desperate need of those prayers that very day.
Friends and family of the Steeves family and the St. Thomas community have been praying for Evan since he was struck by a car at the intersection of Cleveland and Jefferson avenues in St. Paul on Nov. 14 while riding his bicycle. Steeves' doctors at Region's Hospital in St. Paul have cleared him to be discharged Thursday this week, an outcome his family and friends never would have predicted one month ago. He plans to spend the holidays at home with his family.
Evan sustained massive trauma to the right side of his brain and skull in the accident. Neurosurgeons at Regions told his parents he had sustained a "life-changing event" and initially were pessimistic about his outlook, but his recovery has been nothing short of miraculous, his father, Mark, said Monday.
"Even for a faithful person, some of this stuff is so hard to comprehend," he said. He surmised that whether or not his son's accident happening on the feast day of Blessed John Licci was coincidental, he believes there's "a mix of the miracles of medicine and the miracles of faith" at work in his son's recovery. "We've had so many people from all over praying for him. And from a medical standpoint, the Saint Paul Fire Department and paramedics were able to get to him so fast, and he was in surgery within two hours after the accident," he said, which is a key factor in treating patients of traumatic brain injuries.
Mark described the speed of Evan's healing as "lightning fast." As early as last week he was able to go off of his pain medication, which in turn alleviated the extreme sleepiness he'd been suffering from, a common side effect of TBIs.
"Generally people with the same degree of injury spend weeks in the ICU. Evan was in for six days. He's been in rehab – walking to his sessions within the hospital – for the past two weeks and is going home after a month," Mark said.
One of Evan's biggest challenges now is accepting what's happened to him and the sudden change in his plans for spring semester. "At this moment we're taking one day at a time and working on getting him as healthy as we can," his dad noted. In addition to finishing his senior year, Evan kept busy at St. Thomas outside of academics. His roster includes the Irish Club (of which he is president), Students for Human Life, AFROTC and choir.
Most recently he was looking forward to singing last weekend in this year's annual Christmas concert for his fourth and final time. There was a silver lining, though. Family were able to take him to Orchestra Hall for the performance in a wheelchair and a special helmet to protect his skull.
Incredibly, Evan did not sustain any major cuts or broken bones. The majority of his recovery has revolved, and will continue to revolve, around his brain injury. He'll receive outpatient speech and occupational therapy for the next 12 months to exercise his cognitive skills, and some physical therapy.
Although he doesn't remember the accident, and may never remember it, he realizes more now, his father said, what a gift it is to be healthy and "how truly dear" his friends, family and the life he had at St. Thomas are to him. "He's been telling me that every day."
Visit Evan's CaringBridge.com site.