Teenager survives car crash and is welcomed home from the hospital 154 days later


Clinton, Ill. (WCIA) —

That’s the sound of welcome home for one teenager, and it’s been over 4 months since he’s last been there after a car crash sent him to the hospital.

The Clinton fire and police departments escorted Caleb Zook home today. His family and friends cheered for him when he pulled up to his house.

Big signs saying “Welcome Home Caleb” were in the front yard. Family and friends said they were ecstatic to see Zook back at home.

“It’s been real hard. He’s been real… There’s been a few times where he’s not been, but most of the time he’s had jokes and been positive about all of it. I know he was glad to get home,” Jennifer Gharrett, Zook’s mom, said.

Jennifer Gharrett, Caleb Zook’s mom, says she feels relief knowing her son is now at home.

“I didn’t think it was going to come. It’s been a long road and a long way to go still, but we don’t have to go to St. Louis anymore, so a lot better,” Gharrett said.

October 1st, Zook was in a car crash. He was ejected 150 feet from his car and airlifted to an Urbana hospital, where he had to undergo multiple surgeries, including an eight hour back surgery. Doctors trying to save his legs from paralysis.

To top it off. with Covid restrictions, only one person was allowed in with him.

“People slept in the parking lot. It was awful,” Gharrett said.

He was taken to a rehabilitation hospital in St. Louis, where he stayed for several more months.

“When I woke up I was like that’s not good, and since then I’ve been like well no need to be sad about it. Just as well turn it into a joke,” Zook said.

Now, he’s back home.

“She was trying to surprise me, but then like, it didn’t work. I found out about it, we were like 20 miles away from the hospital when I found out about it,” Zook said.

Gharrett says they still have a lot more work to do. She also hopes to get a second opinion to see if her son will ever walk again.

“We have to go and get a re-eval before he can go. He needs that. That’ll be his only chance to walk,” Gharrett said.

For the time being, Zook is grateful to again be surrounded by loved ones, who had waited 154 days to see him.

“Its going to be a lot of fun being back here,” Zook said.

Gharrett hopes to bring her son to get his spinal cord checked in Chicago. She said the first 5 to 6 months are the most crucial to regain mobility, but, she is relieved to have him home and alive.

They do have an online fundraiser set up. The link is below.


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