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Lystedt’s recovery is almost as remarkable as the impact of the law named after him.

He spent three months in the hospital immediately after his injury.

Another nine months passed before he could finally utter an “ohhh” and he spent another year at a neuro-rehabilitation center near Dallas. His mother _ a former dental hygienist and now full-time caregiver _ trucks Zack about 500 miles per week for 30 to 40 hours of therapy _ physical, occupational and speech.

He still has his struggles. The right side of his body drags, his speech is slow and slightly slurred and he struggles remembering in the short term.

“His short-term memory has been affected so much from his brain injury that … it’s very difficult to learn,” Victor Lystedt said. “You have to get it to his long-term. Once you get locked into his long-term he’s good to go.”

Zack returned to school for the 2009-10 school year, attending one class per week at Tahoma. It was a way to get back into the social aspects of school without overwhelming his recovering brain. This year he’s taken additional classes and spent longer hours at school around his rehabilitation _ including being voted Homecoming king in the fall. A peer educator worked with him.

“I really liked Wednesdays,” Lystedt said of his longest day spent at school.

But while his school requirements have been altered, Lystedt completed two graduation requirements mandated by the state: he passed the Washington Assessment of Student Learning and completed a senior project based around public speaking. He plans to take a few classes at Bellevue College starting in the fall and will move into a new custom-built house that caters to the Lystedts’ needs for caring for their son.

But first comes the challenge of Friday night. The goal all along was to be walking by graduation, but Goodell added a little more motivation, telling Lystedt he might have tickets for the 2012 Super Bowl _ lockout pending _ waiting for him if he was running by the end of the NFL season.

Running might still be a ways off, but Lystedt has gone nearly 200 steps at one time with his cane and can walk the length of the Lystedts’ garage without assistance; his dad there ready to help if he stumbles.

Only in the last year have Victor and Zack become interested in football again. His relationship with Goodell and the NFL’s interest in promoting the Lystedt Law have softened some of the initial resentment.

Goodell and the league sent a customized ball that read:

“Most Inspirational Player on Any Team. With Great Admiration, Roger Goodell and the NFL.”

“He is really, really nice. A really, really good person,” Zack said of Goodell. “You can tell he really cares.”


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