IUP student undergoes roller coaster healing

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Brandon Bushmire's recovery has been marked by small triumphs and some painful setbacks.

The former Indiana University of Pennsylvania student has spent the last year in a hospital or in-patient rehab recovering from a serious brain injury he suffered when he was hit by a car in September 2012.

Over the summer, he managed to type a short message on Facebook during occupational therapy, a post that has garnered 580 "likes." This month, he is scheduled to come home.

But despite a series of surgeries, Brandon, 21, has regressed some. He hasn't been speaking much or working on a computer recently, his father, Alan, said.

"I am not sure he is coherent enough to answer anything with more than a head nod or thumbs up or down," he said.

"If we reach a 50 percent recovery at this point, we've won the Super Bowl, so to speak."

Another milestone of sorts arrived in a courtroom in Indiana County late last month, where a judge accepted a plea from the man who hit his son.

Anthony Royster of Philadelphia pleaded guilty to DUI and reckless driving Sept. 27 and was sentenced to probation and ordered to surrender his driver's license, court records show. He also was incarcerated for 48 hours.

Charges of aggravated assault while driving under the influence and aggravated assault by vehicle, among others, were withdrawn.

On Sept. 8, 2012, Mr. Royster was driving near the IUP campus around 11:20 p.m. when he hit Mr. Bushmire, who he said had stepped out into his lane, Indiana borough police said in a criminal complaint.

Mr. Royster, 24, an IUP graduate, could not be reached, but his attorney, Robert S. Muir, said his client spoke at the hearing.

"It was a compelling, compassionate statement, and he is extremely remorseful for the incident," the attorney said.

Alan Bushmire told the judge last month that doctors have said his son, a South Allegheny High School graduate, will never be the same after five brain surgeries, seizures, a coma and more.

"I hope the image of him lying in the street is burned in the defendant's brain forever because it is certainly burned into my brain and for that I shall never forgive anyone for what has happened to my son," Alan wrote in a victim impact statement.

Reached by phone weeks later, his tone softened some. He noted that Mr. Royster told them he'd been reading the Facebook page Alan updates with posts about Brandon's progress, a detail Mr. Muir confirmed.

"I was kind of taken aback by that, that he'd been following the page," Alan said.

The "Brandon Bushmire Recovery Status" Facebook is equal parts joyful and heartbreaking: Brandon himself typed in July during occupational therapy, "Hi its Brandon Practicing my typing in ot."

Meanwhile, Alan and his fiancee spent $13,000 remodeling their North Strabane home, which has been "turned upside down" to be able to accommodate Brandon, who now uses a wheelchair.

"This was money that could have been used for our wedding or the vacations we had planned on taking with Brandon," Alan wrote in the statement.

"Now it is used to make sure Brandon's wheelchair can fit in the bathroom so I can give him a shower and keep him clean."

A benefit dinner for the family's future expenses for Brandon is scheduled for 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the South Fayette Volunteer Fire Department on Millers Run Road. Chef Claudio Masci of Claudio's Pizzeria and Ristorante will cater the event. Brandon is expected to attend.

More information: www.facebook.com/BrandonBushmireRecoveryStatus.

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Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @borntolede. First Published October 20, 2013 8:00 PM


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