Luke Holko's road to recovery - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Luke Holko's road to recovery

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NORTH BLOOMFIELD, Ohio - Nearly four years ago, a Trumbull County boy suffered critical injuries at a Scrappers game. 21 News Anchor/Reporter Leslie Barrett and Photojournalist Tim Dale went back to Luke Holko's house, where this tough kid is proving anything is possible.

A Scrappers game September 2, 2009 changed numerous lives in an instant.

Four-year-old Luke was sitting on his dad's lap in the front row, when a line drive foul ball hit him in the back of the head.

"I saw the ball hit Luke and I just remember hearing the whole stadium get quiet," said Ben Carlson, the Scrappers player who hit the foul ball.

"When he was hit I just immediately realized he went limp and I jumped up and yelled for a doctor," said Luke's dad Chad Holko.

It was the first time doctors had seen a traumatic brain injury like this.

Chad said "It hit the lower left. It caved his bone in, pressed the bone up against the brain and there was swelling so they had to remove a section of bone from his skull."

For three weeks, Luke was in a coma.

Luke's mom Nicole Holko said "they (doctors) said he's not going to wake up. It wasn't a matter of well we don't think he's going to wake up, he might not. It was he's not going to come out of this. He's never going to walk again, he's never going to talk again. He's not going to be anything."

Akron Children's became their home for the next nine months. Little Luke underwent physical, occupational and speech therapies.

"He learned how to swallow, how to sit up, how to crawl. He basically went back to an infant," Chad said.

Fast forward nearly four years later, Luke is going in to the second grade walking, running and playing baseball like other eight-year-olds.

Luke said that he plays "second, outfield and catcher."

"They think it might have crushed the nerve that goes to his ears so he's deaf in his left ear now," Nicole said.

She said "The biggest long lasting reaction from that would be that his brain doesn't tell his foot to pick up his toes."

Luke continues physical therapy and other treatments on his right leg to fine tune his range of motion as he grows.

"I can say that I've actually seen a miracle to see how far he's come," said Chad.

Luke's favorite pastime these days is playing baseball with his best friend Ben.

"I like him cause he's very nice," Luke said.

"It just surprised me because how could I be your hero when I hit a ball that hurt you and changed you forever. How could you look at me as someone special in your eyes and I think of you as my hero," Ben said.

The Kansas native's heart wasn't in the game anymore.

The accident eventually led him to become a Christian, brought him close to Luke's family and took him down a new career path.

"When I see a little boy almost dying in a coma. It made me look at my life and look at what I was trusting in. It made me look at who I was as a person," he said.

Next month, Ben will start studying at a seminary in Kentucky to become a Reform Baptist pastor.

"In those times you say this was the will of God for this to happen not to intentionally hurt people but God has a much bigger plan and purpose than any of us could imagine, as we see what he's done with me and Luke's family. That puts my nerves and my guilt at ease to know that God is in this and that he's worked through both of our lives to do amazing things," said Ben.

The Holko family also has a deeper relationship with God since the accident.

Driven by their faith, these two families are finding good things can come from such a tragic situation.

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