After car accident and coma, Summit High senior recovering in hospital faster than expected |

After car accident and coma, Summit High senior recovering in hospital faster than expected

Beto Santiago holds up his favorite photo of his sons Cristian and Anthony at his home in Breckenridge two weeks after Cristian was injured in a car crash Oct. 18.
Photo by Antonio Olivero /

DILLON — Due to novel coronavirus rules, Anthony Santiago can’t visit his older brother Cristian at Children’s Hospital of Colorado in Aurora during Cristian’s slow recovery from a car crash last month. That’s why it meant so much to Anthony when he asked his 17-year-old brother via FaceTime to blink twice if he remembered who he was.

Cristian did.

“That was five days after he got out of the coma, and that made me feel happy because he remembers who I am,” said Anthony, who is 15. “I just wanted to see if he would remember me, and it feels better when he remembers who we are.”

One blink, one hand movement, one step at a time, Cristian is recovering better and faster than expected from an Oct. 18 car accident on Interstate 70 that left the Summit High School senior in a coma with multiple serious injuries requiring surgery.

Anthony said Wednesday that doctors haven’t told him and the family why Cristian is recovering so well. He took 20 steps Tuesday as part of physical therapy, just a few weeks after his father, Beto, wasn’t sure if he’d ever walk again.

Anthony is convinced it’s because Cristian has a fighter’s spirit.

“I think it’s just because he’s always been a hard worker and puts his mind to anything he wants,” Anthony said.

Cristian began to see what was going on around him after first opening his eyes for an extended period of time a couple of weeks ago. Anthony said his brother then progressed to moving his left hand, the start of what appears to be a long physical therapy road back to ordinary life.

Cristian’s mother, Rocelia, and Beto are able to take shifts at the hospital thanks to Ronald McDonald House Charities helping them with an apartment where they can take turns resting. But, despite COVID-19 restrictions, the mother and father are by Cristian’s side as much as possible.

Beto said Wednesday that he feels 70% better for his son’s long-term health thanks to the progress Cristian has experienced in recent weeks as operations have ceased and physical therapy has commenced. Beto said doctors have told the family Cristian could be out of the hospital by Jan. 20 if he continues to progress at the rate he is now.

“When he’s in a really good mood, with extra energy, he’s talking about still wanting to go to school in January,” Beto said.

Cristian’s uncle Donaciano, or “Don,” most recently saw Cristian on Saturday and said he was full of energy through the day after he woke up at 5:30 a.m. asking his mother if he could call his brother.

“And his mom said, ‘It’s too early,’” Don said. “‘Nobody is going to answer the phone. Wait until a little bit later.’”

As Don departed the hospital, he reminded his nephew to “just keep working.” He then painted a picture of an idyllic time in the future, after Cristian returns home from the hospital recovered, when the family and their friends can join together for a celebration.

“‘We’ll be together when you recover,’” Don said he told Cristian. “‘We’ll do some fire pits, marshmallows, stuff like that.’ And he was smiling, giving me a thumbs up.”

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