JEFFERSONVILLE – "He's my everything. He's my world – he's my entire world."
That's how Tracy Melton describes her 16-year-old son Roby as she spoke from his hospital room at Frazier Rehab Hospital in Louisville on Wednesday.
In tears, she shared how life changed forever in that world on Oct. 2 when Roby was hit by a car while riding his bicycle to school in the dark on Allison Lane.
The Jeffersonville High School junior and 21st Century Scholar was following his normal route when tragedy struck.
Roby crashed into the car's windshield and fell off the vehicle. His bike landed 98 feet away.
When she got the news, she had no idea if he would even survive the ambulance ride.
"All the way to University Hospital, all I could think was, 'Please let him be alive. Please let him be alive,'" she remembered.
And he was.
"So, I thought – 'Ok we got this! We got this!" she said. "If he's alive, we've got this."
But, Tracy quickly learned he was not the same.
"I wasn't prepared when they took me back to see him," Tracy remembered.
Already told he "may never wake up" from the coma he was in, the trauma team tried to set expectations for her before she entered his hospital room.
"But I never dreamed he'd look like that," she said crying. "I just kept thinking he'd be sitting up in bed talking like Roby."
She was startled the see his shattered body.
"I saw the bolt in his head to help with the brain pressure. His face was swollen. His body was swollen," she said. "He didn't look like Roby. I just couldn't believe it was him."
He had suffered multiple brain bleeds. The bone under his eye was broken in two places. He had a fractured pelvis. His ankle was shattered. His lower spine was fractured in two places. So much to process.
Then there was the 25-day medically induced coma to endure. The long days and nights living by his bedside. Then learning of the loss of his peripheral vision after he awoke. His inability to move his left arm. The loss of some speech. The loss of mobility. The list goes on.
"And we're still finding stuff out every day," she said.
All she could think is that he was soon about to get his license and he would be driving to school instead of riding his bike.
"The irony is – I had taken that day off so I could take Roby to get his driver's permit after school," she said.
With the incident still under investigation, Tracy chooses to discuss the strength of her son and the miracle of his survival instead of the details of the accident.
"He's such a special kid. He's the kind of kid who is friends to the ones nobody else wants to hang out with," she said. "He cares about everybody."
Sadly, Roby and Tracy are no strangers to pain and heartbreak.
Last year, the two found her husband and his father – Troy Melton – in the backyard deceased.
"It was horrible," Tracy said. "It just devastated us both."
Although Roby knew his Dad was critically ill with a lifelong illness that took a severe physical toll on his life, the trauma of losing his father at age 15 was still extremely hard on the boy.
"He went within a lot after that," Tracy said.
Troy always told Roby that he would be the "man of the house" when his father passed, and Tracy said Roby took it to heart.
"He was always worried about me and about finances and about the household overall," she said. "I told him I've got it, Baby. You don't have to worry about it. You need to just be a boy and enjoy life."
The two have always been close. Now, she sits by his side day after day, night after night helping him grow stronger and preparing him to come home as soon as possible.
However, the road is a long one for the two emotionally and financially.
The community is invited to attend a fundraiser for Roby and Tracy Melton this Friday, Nov. 9, at 300 Spring in downtown Jeffersonville.
Billed as a “night of fun” for families, the fundraiser runs from 7 p.m. to midnight and will include auction baskets, a DJ, food and games. Admission is a $10 donation per guest.
Also, for those wishing to make a direct contribution to the family, a Go Fund Me page has been set up for Roby at www.gofundme.com/roby-strong.
All proceeds from both the fundraising event and Roby’s Go Fund Me campaign will directly help Tracy with Roby’s extensive medical, rehabilitation and living expenses.
Roby’s medical case is highly complex and his recovery will be lengthy. With his multiple breaks and fractures, Roby will require several surgeries over the next few years to limit the severity of his injuries as the teen grows into a man.
Even more, his traumatic brain injury will require specialized home-health care, transportation and educational assistance, as well as long-term physical, occupational and speech therapy. The goal is for Roby to regain as many of the abilities and functions he had before the accident. This could take several years.
Tracy is grateful for the way loved ones and strangers alike have shown such concern and love for her and her son.
While she finds the fundraising efforts to be "embarrassing because I'm used to handing everything myself for him and me," she has had to make peace with the fact that it's going to take a community for her son to recover from such a traumatic event.
"We were about two weeks into all this, and I just broke down," she said. "I said, 'I can't do it all alone.' No matter how much I want to, I just have to accept I can't. So, I think it's wonderful people care."
No matter what they face, Tracy said she and Roby will never stop fighting.
"They said four to 10 years for him to heal – and we don't even know if he ever will completely heal," she said. "We just don't know. And that's the hardest part ... but at least he's alive and that's what matters. He's a strong kid. We've got this."