Medical staff had discussed taking Sam Schmid off life support in 2011 after a devastating car crash that killed his University of Arizona roommate.
Schmid’s injuries were so severe that he was initially declared dead at the scene. His friend and roommate, Anthony C. Andrighetto 21, died at the hospital from injuries in the multicar wreck.
But against the odds, Schmid, now 23, lived.
The crash happened shortly after 5 p.m. on Oct. 19, 2011, when a minivan on East Golf Links Road failed to yield to traffic and crashed into the Jeep driven by Andrighetto, who had a green light. Schmid was the passenger. The two were returning home from volunteer work teaching basketball to kids.
Emergency responders declared Schmid dead at the scene of the crash, but then Schmid began showing signs of life. He was transferred by air from University of Arizona Medical Center in Tucson to Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix.
Doctors there were not hopeful for his survival. The medical staff even discussed organ donation. But then Schmid raised two fingers. He’s been making improvements ever since.
Schmid had a lot to overcome. His injuries included a brain aneurysm, stroke and a severe brain injury.
He spent two months at Barrow’s inpatient Neuro Rehabilitation Center relearning to speak and walk.
He then began outpatient therapy at Barrow’s Center for Transitional Neuro Rehabilitation, where he spent nearly 40 hours a week for two years undergoing intensive speech, physical and occupational therapy.
He returned to Tucson this month and expects to begin school and work.
As part of Barrow’s program, Schmid also began learning to transition back to work by volunteering in the hospital and working at Safeway. Now back in Tucson, Schmid has enrolled in a college course and is applying for jobs.
His family declined a request for an interview. But a video that the staff at Barrow’s made of Schmid’s recovery shows significant progress. Schmid plays basketball and gives an interview in which he stresses that he did not get better through luck. It was hard work, not a miracle, he says.
His advice? Don’t expect miracles — “Find the miracle within you.”
Barrow is part of Dignity Health’s St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, and officials say the hospital performs more brain surgeries than anywhere else in the U.S.