Injured teen returns home to Rochester

Andy Sommer, 17, spent 60 days in a Seattle hospital following 4-vehicle crash in October

The Chronicle (Centralia)January 6, 2014 

The Rochester teenager who survived a four-vehicle crash in October has returned home after two months in Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Andy Sommer, 17, had five surgeries during his hospital stay to treat broken ribs, a punctured lung and second-degree burns sustained during the Oct. 29 collision at the intersection of Highway 12 and Pecan Street near Rochester.

Sommer’s 2003 Jeep Cherokee was cut in half by the impact with a semitrailer, which was hauling more than 100,000 pounds of scrap metal, according to the State Patrol.

Sommer said he is thankful to be alive and happy to finally be home.

“I’d have to say it’s definitely better than the hospital,” Sommer said. “Day 30, I thought I had enough of it already, and Day 60 arrived and they said I was well enough to go home.”

Sommer surprised his church congregation at Rochester Life Assembly of God with his return. His mother, Kelly Sommer, said they sneaked into church while the pastor and the congregation were praying.

“I don’t think their was a dry eye in the house,” Kelly Sommer said.

While still in the hospital in December, Sommer had a surprise of his own when nearly 50 classmates from Rochester High School rode in a school bus to visit. The school bus company donated the bus and time to take the students to the hospital.

“I just woke up from a nap and thought it was just another day and then close to 50 kids walk through the door,” Sommer said.

Kelly Sommer said the students, some of whom her son did not know, brought a Christmas tree and balloons to his hospital room.

“They brought Christmas to him. It was a surprise,” Kelly Sommer said. “It was kind of overwhelming to him.”

Another rare bright spot for Sommer during his hospital stay was a visit from Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin.

Baldwin had to cancel an initial visit when one of Sommer’s surgeries was delayed, Sommer said, but Baldwin made the effort to visit another time when Sommer was available.

“Most athletes don’t have a whole lot of time, but he kept his word,” Sommer said. “First, he prayed with me for better health and he brought me an autographed NFL ball, and I ended up inspiring him.”

Sommer’s accident also inspired more than 700 people to sign a petition asking the state Department of Transportation to fix the troublesome portion of Highway 12 near Rochester where Sommer collided with the semitrailer.

WSDOT responded to the petition and recently installed large reflective signs and rumble strips at the Pecan Street and Denmark Street Southwest intersections on Highway 12.

WSDOT also agreed to reduce the speed on Highway 12 near Rochester from 55 mph to 50 mph.

As Sommer adjusts to life back home, he and his family continue to rely on support from the community. A benefit spaghetti dinner was held Dec. 20 during Rochester High School’s boys and girls basketball doubleheader against Rainier. More than $5,000 was raised to help the Sommers with medical costs.

The Sommers also have a fundraising campaign on to cover their medical bills. Kelly Sommer, who took leave from her job as a nurse at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia to care for her son, said any support helps as Sommer begins the second phase of his recovery.

Sommer will begin physical therapy on his right hand and go to Harborview weekly for follow-ups. The Rochester High junior is still expecting to graduate on time next year.

“I cannot begin to thank everyone for prayers, favors, donations, cleaning, rides, gifts, sacrifice during these past 60 grueling days,” Kelly Sommer wrote on the Andy Sommer Fund and Updates Facebook page. “We have all witnessed a true miracle, for which I am eternally grateful.”

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