I have been intimately acquainted with Ross Dillon's story since the day this tragedy took place some nine years ago. My dear friend and fellow author, Kate Douglas, was beside herself with grief the moment she heard the horrific news: her son's best friend, a boy she had been like a second mother to, had been struck down by a car while cycling near his home in Sonoma County, California. Although Ross survived the initial impact, he was in a coma and only had a 5% chance of ever waking up.
Kate and her family were devastated. The Dillon family was devastated. My heart was broken for all of them.
From the blog Kate has faithfully kept on Ross...
Dreams can change in a heartbeat. The plans we've made suddenly take a back seat to reality, which is exactly what happened to Ross Dillon at approximately 2:50 in the afternoon on June 3, 2002 . The 25 year old cyclist was on a training ride on Occidental Road near Mills Station in Sonoma County, California. The bike lane there is wide, the road wider still. It was a gorgeous day and we can only imagine what Ross was thinking.
His marriage to Katie Meyers was just a little over two months away and he was getting ready to enter Boston College Law School in the fall after graduating cum laude from Santa Clara University with a BS in Economics. He'd taken a short break on a perfect spring day to take advantage of riding some of his favorite Sonoma County roads. Suddenly a car drifted into the bike lane, hitting Ross from behind at approximately 50 miles per hour. He was catapulted up and over the hood of the car, striking his head on the car and shattering his helmet before being thrown in excess of 150 feet.
He probably should have died from the impact, but his body is that of a serious athlete: strong and fit from miles of training rides. Another thing in his favor: the good Samaritans who stopped to administer aid knew exactly what to do to keep him alive. Less than an hour after impact he was in surgery at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. It would be hours later before his parents even knew their only son had been seriously injured, and his injuries are very bad.
Until yesterday, Kate and I, both extremely busy with our own lives and careers, hadn't spoken at length about Ross's condition in several years. I asked her how he was doing, what improvements he had made, and how the Dillon family was holding up in general. Kate sent me a link to where I could read up on all that had transpired in the past nine years.
There were parts of the blog that I loved, such as this photo of Ross holding the baby girl of one of his friends, and a recent video of Ross's ongoing progress brought bittersweet tears to my eyes. I spent a solid hour pouring through update after update. There was one question that the romantic in me had to ask, but was afraid to hear the answer to. I needed to know what had happened to Katie, Ross's bride-to-be, because I couldn't find her name in any of the updates. I asked the question, afraid I already knew the answer.
"Katie stayed for a whole year," Kate explained, "but it was so heartbreaking and he didn’t even know her. She has moved on with [the] blessing [of Ross's parents]."
I teared up. I prayed that Ross's memories of their former life together would never return. I also prayed that Katie was able to find peace.
"It is horrible—there are no other words to describe what’s happened," Kate continued. "Our son still goes to visit Ross and takes his wife and children whenever they’re on the mainland. Ross doesn’t know him at all."
Unfortunately, the story only gets more heartbreaking.
"It’s very sad and only going to get worse as his parents are getting older and won’t be able to take care of him forever," Kate reflected. "His care is terribly expensive, and I worry with the economy so bad and the state cutting back on even the small amount of funding available.."
After reading Kate's final email, I sat and pondered the preciousness of life. I couldn't help but feel humbled by the ongoing struggles of Ross and his family. I couldn't help but grieve the loss of the boy who once was, while cheering on the man who is.
It's so easy to turn a blind eye to those in need, to tell ourselves that someone else will take care of it all. But the reality is that we, all of us, are that someone.
I would like to encourage everyone who reads this and feels touched by Ross's story to donate a cash contribution to the Go Home Foundation, a charitable organization formerly known as the Ross Dillon Fund. The proceeds go directly to the Dillon family to help alleviate the absorbent medical expenses required to continue caring for their son at home. Contributions can be sent online by clicking here (don't forget the name of the fund is Go Home Foundation.) You can also send a check (in the memo line write "Go Home Foundation-10760") to:
WaterStone Support Foundation, Inc.
2925 Professional Place, Suite 201
Colorado Springs, CO 80904-8136
(a tax receipt will be mailed to you)
We might not be able to save the world, but we can do our part to make it a better place by helping those who cannot help themselves. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded."