Like thousands of Americans, RJ Darch has been getting out of the house to go fishing and enjoy the pleasant fall weather.
The former Glen Rose High School football player can’t wait to go deer hunting, which he always does this time of year.
But it looks like Darch may have to be patient and put that off for a while – maybe even until next year.
On Sept. 23, just three days before his 20th birthday, Darch suffered a severe injury to his left leg during a motorcycle collision with another vehicle on Highway 144 in Hood County.
Darch was flown by air ambulance to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. He spent the next 10 days there, enduring five surgeries and three blood transfusions.
“I lost more than half of my blood, between the side of the road and JPS,” Darch said.
Almost a week into his hospital stay, his doctors told him they thought they could save his leg, but it would be shorter than the other one – and the knee would not bend.
“I told them to take it,” said Darch, referring to his decision to have them amputate his left leg just above the knee.
The crash on 144 happened just before 5:30 a.m. at the intersection with Mitchell Bend Highway (FM 2425), when Darch was on his way to his job in maintenance at Squaw Creek Park.
The driver of the other vehicle didn’t stop, Darch said, but onlookers were able to get his license plate number. Darch said the man was later charged with two felonies – failing to render aid and leaving the scene of an accident.
“My knee was pinched against his back bumper,” said Darch, who never lost consciousness. “I knew he was leaving while I was still sliding down the road. He never slowed down. There were a lot of people at the intersection.”
Remarkably, Darch said he holds no animosity toward the man.
“Not really. Everybody makes mistakes,” Darch said. “I’m not going to hold any grudges. To be honest, I didn’t think that much about him. “
Darch said he hasn’t felt bitter about the loss of his leg.
“I just look at it like God has a plan for us all,” said Darch, who gets emotional support from his girlfriend, 19-year-old Holly Strevey of Grandview. “God is teaching me a lesson of some sort.”
He also said it won’t stop him from resuming his outdoor activities.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Darch said. “It’s not going to stop me from doing what I want to do. I’ve always looked at positive things. That’s preached to me by my parents, to look for the positive things.”
Erica Weimer is a friend of the Darch family who said she has known RJ his whole life – and isn’t surprised by his positive outlook.
“He’s such an inspiration to all of us, taking it as well as he has,” Weimer said, noting that he had a good upbringing by his parents, Ralph and Laura Darch of Glen Rose. “He’s not going to let it slow him down, and he hasn’t so far. He has been so positive throughout this, from the moment it happened and still today. He’s definitely been raised to be tough, but also a sweet young man.”
Darch said when paramedics arrived, he declined pain medication at that time because he wanted to help his mother remain calm.
“I guess I have a high pain tolerance,” said Darch, who also suffered a foot fracture. “It didn’t get to me too bad. I was more worried about my family freaking out.”
Darch, who stands almost 6 feet, 5 inches tall, was a three-year starter and all-district performer for the Glen Rose varsity football team, playing offensive tackle and defensive end. His senior season was just two years ago, and he thinks the fact that he’s still in good physical condition is helping him have a smooth recovery so far.
Darch has even been able to go fishing from a wheelchair. He doesn’t expect to be able to go hunting until next year, after he has completed his rehab.
“I will go into physical therapy before I get fitted for a prosthetic leg,” Darch said.
Darch said he has no medical insurance coverage, and the hospital bills have already reached “about $250,000.”
“I’m trying to get social security,” Darch said, noting that the prosthetic leg could cost about $115,000.”
A fundraiser to help Darch with his medical expenses is set for 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 20, at Loco Coyote Grill in Glen Rose. Live music is planned, along with a silent auction and other activities.
There is a GoFundMe page online to benefit Darch – “Help RJ Get A Leg – with a goal of $50,000 posted. As of Tuesday it had raised almost $2,000.
Before the accident, Darch wanted to become a firefighter. That hasn’t changed, but his timeline will have to be adjusted.
“The first couple of years, I’ll probably have to have an assisted walker,” Darch said. “Eventually I hope to not have to use that, and just walk around.
“I’ve got my mind set that I’m going to do what I want to do. Nothing is going to stop me. I’m going to be successful and independent on my own. I’m not going to rely on anybody.”
Weimer said she thinks the hardest part’s over for him, although one thing he may not handle so well could be the physical rehab – because he will be so eager to be fitted for the prosthetic leg.
“I don’t think it can happen fast enough for him,” Weimer said, before adding, “I don’t think it’s going to slow him down a bit. I believe it’s a little more painful than he lets on (but) there’s not anything that’s going to slow this kid down.”