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Remarkable recovery after terrible accident puts determined Bruin back in class

OUTLOOK PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Bobby Asa returned to Barlow High School this semester after his accident and is checking out the news in his journalism class with Vic Sanchez, senior, left, and MacKenzie Cochran, junior.Eight months ago, a car crash left Bobby Asa in a coma with life-threatening injuries including brain and spinal cord damage.

Despite predictions from doctors that he would be unable to walk for more than a year, the Barlow High School junior now stands on his own two legs with the assistance of leg braces, crutches and sometimes a walker. 

He is looking ahead — because he can. 

"God kept me on the Earth to be here for a reason," Asa says. "So, I'm moving toward a reason and to try to figure out what that reason is. He wouldn't just save me for nothing."

Asa's life changed in a split second at about 11 p.m. Monday, June 26, 2017, when he and a friend had a fluke two-vehicle collision in the driveway of his Gresham home. His friend was following him from just down the street and Bobby

backed in to his driveway and with the angle, his friend didn't see Asa's headlights.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: A GO FUND ME ACCOUNT - Bobby Asa in the hospital shortly after the two-car collision that left him seriously injured. The two cars collided and Bobby was badly injured, but the other boy was not.

Although his injuries left him unable to return to school for the first semester, Bobby opted for tutoring to keep up with his schoolwork. He is enrolled with a full schedule of seven classes at Barlow and on track to graduate next year with a modified diploma. 

"I'm just excited to be around everyone again," Asa says of his return to the halls of Barlow High in Gresham.

In addition to school, Bobby also puts a lot of his energy into physical therapy. 

"I think [physical therapy] is coming along good. As you can see, I can walk now and everything. I just need my brace to get around," he explains, motioning toward the crutches resting on the bench he sat on. 

OUTLOOK PHOTO: DAVID BALL  - Bobby Asa, who played football for Barlow, was all smiles while being escorted onto the field by teammates Austin Davis (7), Jobi Malary (background) and Triston Stauffer (60) for a celebration in October. Asa's hand was paralyzed in the accident, so the formerly right-handed student now holds his pen in his left hand during classes.

Heather Asa, Bobby's mom, said her son will "for sure (be in physical therapy) for the first year. Then, depending on his progress, there may be no need to go."  

In addition to school and physical rehabilitation, Asa is engaged in an active high school social life. He's often found in the hallways of Barlow, laughing with his friends. 

Although Bobby's voice has gone through some drastic changes since the crash — his vocal cords were paralyzed at one point —it is now raspy, low and rather distinctive. He is still easy to understand and talk to. After all, Bobby says he's "still the chill guy" he was prior to the accident. 

Despite Bobby's positive attitude, life for the Asa family has been forever altered. The damage to Bobby's physical condition aside, Heather and Bobby say they both have gained powerful insights from the accident. 

Life, they agree, is not something that should be taken for granted. For the two months Asa was in a coma following the crash, Heather claimed "he was dead." However, when he started walking again, she witnessed a rebirth of sorts throughout the family.

"It made (his sisters) realize how fragile life is and how important their siblings are," she says. "These kids couldn't live without each other." 

The Asa family regards Bobby's recovery as a miracle, as indicated by their popular Facebook page, "Miracles for Bobby Asa," which has attracted more than  25,000 members since it went up following the accident eight months ago. 

When Bobby awoke from his coma and heard about the page, he was bowled over by the attention and care.

"It was pretty amazing because all these people I don't really know are supporting me," he says. 

Bailey Buck, Asa's friend and fellow Barlow student, sold stickers that read "#RIDEFORBOBBY" to raise money for his friend. 

"It's crazy," he says. "I think of myself as Bobby and I see a random car fly by that says, 'Ride for Bobby.' These stickers can still be spotted on cars around Gresham, and there's an especially high number of them in Barlow's student parking lot.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: LAUREN TIMZEN - Bobby and his mom Healther Asa chat with a reporter in the hall at Barlow. The crash incident has also altered the plan Asa had mapped out for his future. Originally intending to take over his father's commercial carpentry business, Asa can no longer perform the intensive labor the type of work entails. 

But mom was quick to add that he can still take part in the business. 

"He can be in the office more," Heather offers. "He'll be with the clients. It'll be the same field, just different." 

For now, Bobby has his plate full with school and physical therapy. 

Heather says her son works at least "three times as hard as you and I do" in his typical everyday life.

"It's exhausting," Asa admits with a sigh. "I just take it as something I have to do for me to get back to where I was." 

Lauren Timzen is an editor of the Bruin Banner, the Barlow High School student newspaper.

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