Vallonia teen returns home after nearly 5 weeks in hospital from wreck

It’s a miracle Brandon Stuckwish had the opportunity to maneuver around in a wheelchair Wednesday afternoon in the Seymour High School parking lot.

The next step for the 17-year-old Vallonia resident will be to start physical therapy so he can try to stand up and walk for the first time since the July 2 wreck in Cortland where he was ejected from his vehicle and three of his passengers were injured.

Wednesday was his first time back in Jackson County since that night. He and his family pulled into the school parking lot in a van escorted by Jackson County Sheriff’s Department Officers Clint Burcham and Justin Amos. The van was sprayed with water from Stuckwisch Power Washing, and friends and family gathered to greet Brandon.

"I feel great. I’m so glad to be home with everybody again," he said, wearing a black shirt with #stuckwishstrong across the front in white lettering. "I’m thankful to have friends and a group like this that support me."

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]

The welcome home event was special for his parents, Ryan and Kelli Jo Stuckwish.

"Today, we really just watched a miracle happen before our eyes. We didn’t think we were bringing him home, especially this quick," Kelli Jo said.

"I can start being able to breathe again, I guess, is the best way to put it," Ryan said. "Honestly, for us, I think it’s just truly God blessed us with a miracle that we can’t explain."

At the scene of the wreck, Brandon lost consciousness three times, but first responders were able to bring him back.

"We do want to give a shoutout to Paige Bush," Kelli Jo said. "Paige was the first one out in the field, and she actually had to resuscitate him in the field without any EMT there, anything. That saved him."

A helicopter landed in Cortland to transport Brandon to Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

Upon arrival, he underwent emergency surgery to get his bones stabilized. His injuries included multiple fractures down his neck and spine, an incomplete break on a portion of his spine, a broken right femur, a broken left humerus in two places, a broken right scapula, a broken pelvis, a dislocated left leg, a fractured right fibula and cracked ribs.

Somehow, he only had to have a handful of surgeries. He had rods placed in his upper arm, leg and pelvis.

"The first morning, they told us that he would go through a surgery every other day for two weeks," Kelli Jo said, noting that didn’t end up happening. "Luckily, the child is a miracle."

His pelvis was fixed with screws, Ryan said.

"Because of his broken spine, they had to turn him on his stomach, and they were able to actually screw it all in one deal," Ryan said. "They put a few screws in different places, but they thought it would take a couple times. The guy did it in one surgery. These guys up there at IU Methodist were amazing."

Altogether, Kelli Jo said they went through 30-some units of blood for Brandon.

"We ended up actually getting really good teams," she said of the doctors and nurses. "It’s just like everything fell into place."

Brandon’s parents stayed in Indianapolis for his two weeks at the hospital.

"We have amazing friends that chipped in and helped us get a place up there on Delaware Street a couple blocks from the hospital," Ryan said.

Brandon said while he doesn’t remember anything about the wreck, he recalls his experience at the hospital.

"At first, it wasn’t terrible," he said. "I was up there with my mom and my dad and my stepdad, and it wasn’t bad. The worst part about it, like the first couple weeks, it kind of drug on and I got really homesick."

He, however, maintained a positive attitude.

"I didn’t want to get down because that wasn’t going to get me home," he said.

Brandon spent the next three weeks at Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana in Indianapolis. His younger brother, Cruz, 6, was able to come up and see him several times. Brandon also got to go fishing one day and caught a snapping turtle.

Soon, Brandon will start physical therapy.

"We’re probably looking at a two-year recovery, but he will be walking again within three weeks. Hopefully, we can start trying," Kelli Jo said.

"Once we talk to the orthopedic doctor here at the end of August, he’ll tell us what we can do with the leg, and I’d say Brandon will start trying to walk immediately," Ryan said.

Brandon is going to start his senior year at Brownstown Central High School virtually.

"He’s shooting to go back to school second or third trimester and try," Ryan said. "We’ll just see how that one goes."

Through it all, the family has been fortunate to receive financial support from family and friends.

A Lemonade and Snacks event July 11 at the family business, Stuckwish Farm Market in Vallonia, organized by Tonya Disque and Adilee Phegley raised $5,342.

On Aug. 15, Dillon Pruett has organized Ride for Brandon, which is for motorcycles, Jeeps, side-by-sides and other vehicles and starts and ends at Luke’s Country Inn in Dudleytown. After the ride, there will be live music, food, drinks, a raffle and a silent auction.

All proceeds will go toward Brandon’s medical bills.

"Gosh, it has been amazing," Kelli Jo said of the support. "We couldn’t even know how to process. It’s overwhelming because you don’t understand until you’re in that position for everybody to come around."

Brandon’s grandfather, Allen Stuckwisch, appreciates the support, too.

"This community comes together. He’s got good friends, that’s for sure," he said.

Ryan said it all makes him realize how much Brandon is loved.

"We’ve been trying to find a way to make sure we tell everybody ‘thank you,’" he said. "The support he was having here at home, seeing the pictures, seeing the posts, that’s what pushed him to get out here so quick."

Kelli Jo said Brandon was determined to push through so he could return home.

"He knew he was thankful for his life. That’s what pushed us through," she said. "He said, ‘I have to do something good with my life. God is here for a reason.’"

With everything he has gone through, Brandon said it has changed his perspective on life, and he wants others to be smart and safe with their decisions.

"It really made me thankful for what I have," he said.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”If you go” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

What: Ride for Brandon

When: Aug. 15 (motorcycle ride starts at noon; Jeeps, side-by-sides and other vehicles leave at 12:15 p.m.)

Where: Starts and ends at Luke’s Country Inn, 2105 S. County Road 750E, Dudleytown

Cost: $20 for a single rider on a motorcycle, $25 for a couple on a motorcycle and $25 per Jeep or side-by-side; T-shirts are $20 for small through 2XL and $25 for 3XL to 5XL; tickets and T-shirts may be purchased online at

Details: Live music, food, drinks, a raffle and a silent auction after the ride, starting around 6 p.m. and open to anyone. Auction and raffle tickets will be available for cash purchase.

Proceeds: The medical bills for Brandon Stuckwish, a 17-year-old from Vallonia who was seriously injured in a crash July 2

Information: Dillon Pruett at 812-569-2924 or Karmen Johnson at 812-216-7787