EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - Leaning over his lap, Scott Svetal concentrates hard as he works, slowly pulling apart a ball of twist ties. His left thumb shakes slightly as his fingers untangle each tie one by one from the mass.
Svetal loathes the exercise - it’s boring, he says.
Earlier in the day, Svetal practiced lifting his legs quickly and then slowly lowering them. Then he worked on a memory exercise, going through a series of homemade flash cards - each a photo of a Green Valley Rehabilitation Health Center staff member - trying to recall more than a dozen names.
Svetal’s days at the center in north Eugene are composed of such mental and physical exercises. His stamina is increasing, and depending on the task, he can stay focused for 20 to 40 minutes at a time before needing a break.
At age 20, he’s the youngest one at the facility by far - the roughly 75 other residents currently at the facility range in age from 50 to 100.
Svetal, who was on a state champion chess team at Willamette High School and competed on the regional and state levels in soccer, cross country and track, is relearning how to move, walk, speak and even focus. At the University of Oregon, Svetal was a member of the chess club.
Last fall, Svetal began his sophomore year at the UO. But on Nov. 13, a Wednesday, just before 2 p.m., he was struck by a VW Beetle while skateboarding through the intersection at Harris Street and East 20th Avenue, just south of the UO campus.
The car’s driver, heading south on Harris, had no stop sign at the intersection. Svetal was riding his skateboard downhill on 20th Avenue and passed through a stop sign. The motorist was unable to stop and struck Svetal at about 35 mph.
Svetal wasn’t wearing a helmet.
He suffered major bleeding and trauma on the right and left sides of his skull. His right shoulder was dislocated and his right, upper arm was completely broken. His left shoulder was separated. He had two broken ribs and cracked his right cheekbone. He had deep lacerations on his forehead and right ear.
He was rushed to PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield. Moments after arriving, he was being prepped for brain surgery. Surgeons needed to remove large pieces of his skull on the right and left side of his head to reduce pressure on his swelling brain.
Mike and Christina Svetal arrived at the hospital while Scott was in surgery.
“They told us it was unclear if he was going to make it through that first surgery,” Mike Svetal recalls.