ORANGE PARK – Twenty-three-year-old Devon Farrar had high hopes of a career in the U.S. Air Force, and even higher hopes to become a published poet, until he was struck from behind and thrown from his moped in a hit-and-run crash.
Treated for a Traumatic Brain Injury and other injuries at Orange Park Medical Center, Farrar was reunited Jan. 3 with the therapist and others who helped him recover and get his writing voice back.
While traveling northbound on U.S. Highway 17 the night of March 14, 2017, Shawna Haver hit the rear of Farrar’s moped, and then fled the scene. He was left with injuries that not only made him ineligible for the Air Force, but unable to write poetry.
Before the crash, each week Farrar wrote love poems for his wife using inspiration from nature’s beauty, such as the way a leaf falls from a tree. After the crash, however, he was unable to write four-letter words, let alone full poems.
The crash took the once gleeful and optimistic Farrar to a dark place where he questioned death.
“Is there an afterlife?” Farrar said he once asked himself. “If there is, would it be better than this?”
Despite those thoughts, Farrar pushed forward with the help of the therapeutic hands of four Orange Park Inpatient Rehabilitation Center employees. He said he found not only the strength to walk, talk and read, but write again.
Last week, Farrar was reunited with his care team for the first time since his last session some months ago. Although it had been a while since they’d been in the same room together, they appeared to be old friends catching up.
The second that physical therapists Angela Vanslooten and Adam Thomas, nurse Nathalia Delossantos and speech pathologist Kaitlin Chappell entered the room, Farrar greeted them with hugs, a smile and his signature humor.
After catching up, Farrar asked if it’d be OK if he could read a poem he wrote for Chappell, the person he credits helping him write once more.
“She taught me words again, but unintentionally taught me to smile again,” Farrar read from his poem that he wrote about Chappell. “Like a goddess teaching me the religion of speech, Kaitlin saved my soul and gave me spirit making every Tuesday a holiday and every Thursday a Festival.”
Tuesdays and Thursdays were the days Chappell worked with Farrar to help him recover from the crash. Farrar recalled how he struggled to think of a three-letter word on a crossword puzzle.
“I had the clue and two letters, but my brain couldn’t think of the word,” Farrar said. “When they told me about this, I assumed they were lying. It had to be a 3-year-old that they were talking about. Not me.”
During his recovery. Farrar felt he had become a burden to those around him. He said he needed so much assistance that believed there was no hope. However, Chappell never lost hope and worked hard with Farrar to get him back in front of a piece of paper with a pen.
“It’s my job, but at the same time, it’s so much more,” Chappell said. “I was determined, and I knew he could do it.”
When Farrar read the poem he wrote about Chappell to her, she mustered a teary-eyed smile that helped Farrar finish reading.
“It takes my breath away to think of how far I’ve come,” Farrar said to Chappell.
Chappell, who fought back tears, explained that those type of moments are why she does what she does.
“It is so exciting to see that I’m able to impact him and I’ll never forget Devon,” Chappell said. “He is one of the most memorable patients I’ve ever had and now I have something to remember him by forever.”
Farrar finished his poem with a question that not only demonstrated how important words are to him, but how huge a role Chappell played to help him get them back.
“Thank you, Kaitlin, for inspiring me to ask again: without words, how important can oxygen be?”