Every day there is slow but steady progress in the recovery of River Ross, a 6-year-old boy recovering from a bad car crash last month near his home in Manatee County.
River recently awoke from a coma, and is now receiving physical and speech therapy at the Children's Medical Center at Tampa General Hospital. His father, a firefighter in Manatee County, has been by his son's side for nearly every minute of the recovery process.
"If I stop to think about what's going on it is really scary," explains Brian Ross to ABC Action News. "It's just been a long blur of getting to that next moment. First it was him opening his eyes, we got there. Then its smile recognition, we got there. Then it's talking. Now we're sitting up throwing bean bags," says Ross after another morning physical therapy session. "I really try very hard not to dwell on where we're at and focus on where we're going. It's the only way I've been able to get through this."
Also helping, is the community's support.
His colleagues at the fire station in southern Manatee County have helped cover his time away from work, and started a Go Fund Me account that has exploded in popularity. As of February 12, about $25,000 has been raised, and thousands have seen updates on a Facebook page they made for the community to follow along.
"All the support that we've got from the community and through the work place I've been able to sit in here and focus on nothing but River," says Brian Ross. "I don't have words to convey how grateful we are. It's something we would never have dreamed of asking for, much less receiving. It puts us at a loss for words."
Ross's wife was driving in January when she lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a tree. She suffered several broken bones, but River Ross hit his head, fracturing his skull, and causing brain injury.
"I was on shift [when it happened]" says Ross. And even though, as a firefighter, he's responded to numerous injury-crashes, "nothing can prepare you for when its yours," he says.
"You see something happen on the job you know what to do and you do it. In most cases you don't really think about it. When its your child, that all goes out the door. It was like, what do I do?"
"It's never bothered me before helping transport a patient into a hospital room and seeing all the people surround him and working but I think it was that much scarier when I saw that. Like, wow. Because I know what this means. This is not good," recalls Ross.
Now, Brian Ross is praying for a full recovering for his son.
"[River] has a twin brother that is his number one friend and we want them back together running around playing and we would like for both of them to be going to second grade next year," says Ross.