After 20-year-old John Lancaster's motorcycle crashed on U.S. Highway 101 near Shelton on April 25, his injuries cost him most o f the use of his hands - making it impossible for him to drive, play his guitar or ride his snowboard.
On Wednesday, Lancaster discovered that his car keys, guitar, skateboard and snowboard had been stolen from his Evergreen Park Court Southwest apartment in Olympia.
Those items meant a lot to him. Lancaster had placed his guitar, snowboard and skateboard out in his living room to remind him of what he hopes to achieve during the grueling physical therapy sessions that have already helped him regain some movement in his left fingers.
"Basically, when I looked at them, it gave me motivation to work that much harder in therapy, " Lancaster said.
He believes whoever stole the items knew of his vul nerable condition.
The culprits ransacked the medicine cabinet, stealing pain medication and also pills that control tremors caused by two strokes he suffered in the motorcycle crash.
Lancaster is lucky to be alive. The crash put him in a coma and on life-support for three weeks.
Doctors told him he "flatlined" for three minutes after the crash before a helicopter flew him to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
"I couldn't walk for about two months, " he said.
Lancaster's foster mom, Barbara Kealy of Shelton,
said the family prepared for his funeral.
"Harborview called and said that he was in really bad shape, " Kealy said. "It was so bad that when we were in there my mother donated an extra burial plot. We were gonna chip in and pay for his funeral - that's how bad he was. That he's still here is a miracle."
Lancaster said he remembers nothing of the crash, but has been told by doctors that, "I responded very well to CPR, " or cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Today, Lancaster's right arm hangs limp because of nerve damage. He has movement in his left arm, but his left hand is gnarled, missing bone and ligaments.
Lancaster is learning how to operate with limited use of a single hand. He said he can open a can of soda, but he still can't twist open the cap on a bottle of pop.
"I can make stuff work that a one-handed person could do, " he said.
Before his crash, when his 2005 Suzuki GS 500 struck a car that had failed to yield the right-of-way, Lancaster already was familiar with hardship.
He grew up in Shelton never knowing his biological parents, living with two foster families before graduating from Shelton High in 2004 under Kealy's care.
Starting to 'click'
Lancaster's life was just starting to "click" before his crash, Kealy said. He was attending classes at South Puget Sound Community College, beginning studies to attain his dream of becoming a psychologist.
"He was doing great, " she said.
But now, school is on hold because Lancaster is unable to write to take notes.
"If it had happened to anybody else, they would have given up, " Kealy said. "He is a go-getter.
"I remember our first Christmas, I bought him a skateboard. At first, he just glided on the patio, but by the end of the summer, he was jumping off steps."
Kealy said she knows Lancaster gets depressed as he goes through rehabilitation.
About a week ago, he learned that unless he undergoes a surgery to transplant muscles from his leg into his right shoulder, he will never regain use of his right arm.
"He's 20 years old, and he has no family, and he's alone. He asked me, 'How much can I take?' and I said, 'Hang in there, ' " Kealy said. "I told him don't give up because with technology there's all kinds of things they can do."
A photo of Lancaster and his smiling prom date from before the crash was on the floor of Lancaster's bedroom Thursday.
The photo shows a much heavier, stronger young man. Lancaster said he's about 35 pounds lighter than he used to be.
But, Kealy said: "He's getting back to being himself. He's so skinny, it's like hugging a bag of bones, the poor kid."
Kealy speaks with pride about John and his comeback from the near-fatal crash.
"He may not be my biological child, but he's still mine, " she said.
Lancaster is optimistic about the future, calling the crash a "blessing in disguise."
"I feel like it's made me appreciate and enjoy life more, " he said.
But surgeries to his face, along with other medical bills, already amount to more than $600,000, he said.
In the meantime, Lancaster continues to rely on caretakers who drive him to physical therapy at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, and he is moving to cheaper lodging at a friend's place.
He said he is looking forward to again doing the things he once took for granted - driving his car, practicing guitar, going snowboarding and even riding a motorcycle again.
"There's nothing like being on the open road, " he said. "I really want to get back on a bike. But I'm never going to ride on the freeway again."
Jeremy Pawloski covers public safety for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5465 or email@example.com.