HOUSTON - The sole survivor of a plane crash in Bryan has reached a huge milestone.
He has spent the past year in rehabilitation, recovering from a severe traumatic brain injury. On the one-year anniversary of the life-changing accident, he returns to college to finish his senior year.
Luke Armstrong is alive. Some days he can hardly believe it, but sure cherishes it.
"I think it was really hard to be sad because there was just so much overwhelming thankfulness that I lived. I'll admit, there was a ton of me wondering, why me," questions Luke.
This, after he was the only one to live through the small plane crash on August 30, 2020. It went down shortly after take-off at Coulter Field Airport in Bryan, claiming the lives of his girlfriend and her parents.
"I don't really remember anything after I got on the plane. I know that I was the first one to get on the plane. I know where everybody was sitting, but that's about it," states Luke.
Billie Boyd called 911 after witnessing the crash, found Luke, and stayed with him until help arrived. Medics rushed him by helicopter to a hospital only a few minutes away.
"I was in the ICU in College Station for four weeks," explains Luke. Then he was transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston, where he would spend another three weeks re-learning important life skills.
Luke says his biggest deficits had to do with everything his brain is responsible for, from eating, talking, walking, and seeing.
"I had my jaw wired shut because I broke my jaw in three places. The oral maxillofacial surgeon said ‘you broke every bone in your face, except your nose,’" explains Luke.
There was a lot of pain involved with his broken face and crushed skull, but Luke went on to complete his rehabilitation at the Centre for Neuro Skills in the Dallas area for seven months.
"His vision was significantly involved and impaired. And so, when he came to me and said, I want to be able to drive again, I want to be able to you know go back to school and work and these things, those are the highest level that a person can engage in with your eyes, especially for the driving portion. And so, hearing that and then seeing and knowing the level of deficit, my first thought was, this is not going to happen," says Val Neufeld with the Centre for Neuro Skills.
She was thrilled that Luke beat the odds though, and she's proud of his progress.
"He is one of those patients that you would give him a home exercise program, and you tell him do this one hour a day, every day, and he'll do five hours a day, every day, but because that's how badly he wanted to get his life back.
That's how badly he wanted to achieve his goals, and it makes a huge difference," smiles Val.
The hard work did pay off. Luke got to head back to his studies at Texas A&M last January.
"I had to go through the Disability Services at A&M, primarily for vision. I was still very early in doing my vision therapy regimen and so, really anything that required visual attention and visual memory, focus, and reading, that was very difficult," reflects Luke.
Luke has made even more progress, now cherishing things more than ever, like college football at Kyle Field. On the one-year anniversary of the crash that changed his life forever. Kyle got to begin his last semester of college.
"In my eyes, it's pretty picture-perfect that the anniversary of the accident was the first day of class. I was focused on moving onward, upward, and forward and also, of course, reflecting on the loss. Obviously, Texas A&M was a very special place, both for Victoria and I. We went to everything together in our time here, so there was a lot of emotion there," states Luke.
Luke recently reunited with the first responders who helped save his life. He's thankful for the entire team who helped him rebuild his mind and body.
"Not everybody lives before they die, and I get to live again," says Luke.
Luke says he owes it to his beloved late girlfriend and her family to live life to the fullest and carry on their legacy. He will graduate in December and says he'll do that in honor of Victoria. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
For more information, visit https://www.neuroskills.com or https://memorialhermann.org/services/specialties/tirr