GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With tears in their eyes, 12-year old Timmy Fanco and his family crossed the finish line at the Grand Rapids Half Marathon.
The start of the 13.1 mile race began four months ago when Timmy was unresponsive in a coma at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. He was in a terrible T-bone accident on June 10.
Doctors told his family there was a chance he wouldn’t survive.
After he did, they said it’s likely he’ll remain in an unresponsive state for the remainder of his life. He had suffered bilateral fractures of his femurs, a broken jaw, wrist and arms, and had a level-three traumatic brain injury that impacted the brain stem.
As Timmy began to defy the diagnosis, he started to regain his movements slowly. Then came his words. And one of the first thoughts out of his mouth according to his mother, Liz Fanco, was “how many weeks until the half marathon?”
“He was very insistent with his therapist and with his orthopedic surgeon that, ‘I’m running a half marathon on October 16th. So I need to be able to use my legs by then,” Liz Fanco said before the race.
On Sunday, Timmy pushed through the cramps, the pain in his hips caused by the anchors that hold the two metal rods in his femurs, and the fact that his training was limited due to the accident and the amount of weight baring he could put on himself.
“For me, it felt like the culmination of Timmy’s recovery,” his mom said. “Even though he’s not 100% back to pre-accident ability, this race was the goal he set his sights on as soon as he woke up from the coma. He signed up for it last October, the night before he ran the 221 half marathon. He was determined to do it and my job was to support that goal, help him train, and be there to guide him through the process.”
At around mile 4 was the first moment of emotion. They were running on Monroe, across Michigan Street and could see the children’s hospital. Timmy pointed out to his mom that was the hospital where he spent the early days after his accident. He spent a combined six weeks between Helen DeVos and Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. That’s when Liz Fanco says she first cried.
“I looked at the lights all lit up on the 8th floor and just lost it emotionally. Four months ago yesterday he was still laying in a coma in one of those rooms and there he was next to me, racing me across the street and waving to the police officers directing traffic,” Liz Fanco said.
There were some very hard miles along the way and some stopping they had to do to stretch out tight, cramped muscles. But the most powerful moment came at mile 11. Timmy was physically spent. This was the furthest distance he had run since the accident and there was still 2.1 miles to go. Off in the distance he noticed a group of school buddies holding signs and cheering him on. It was just the boost he needed to get to the finish.
“They ran and walked with him from mile 11 until just before the finish line,” mom said. “When his legs were about to give out from cramps, they helped carry him. It was amazing to see a bunch of 11- to 12-year-old boys supporting their friend, physically and emotionally, like that.”
Timmy Fanco is 12. He was in a terrible car accident 4 months ago — Doctors told his family he may not live, may not walk, may not be responsive for the rest of his life. This is video of him today FINISHING the Grand Rapids Half Marathon! pic.twitter.com/6WBjBUPSpP— Casey Jones (@CaseyJ_WOODTV) October 16, 2022
Timmy’s next race will be the Zombie Dash Halloween 5k at Cannonsburg. The next race the Fancos plan to do as an entire family is the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. Timmy hopes by then he’ll be able to run start to finish without any breaks. He starts training for that with his mom on Tuesday.