A.J. Davis IV is connecting the dots in his memory banks — and in some ways is slowly becoming a new person.
Half a year has passed since the Glen Rose Reporter’s first article about Davis, who suffered memory loss due to a traumatic brain injury.
Thursday of last week marked a new chapter in the story, as Davis moved into an apartment on the property of his stepbrother Mark Crawford. Crawford is the fire chief of the Somervell County Fire Department.
Since being discharged from rehab, Davis had been living with his parents in Fort Worth. Davis, 41, had spent about six months in a physical rehabilitation facility in the Dallas area after he suffered a cardiac arrest on Feb. 3 while driving on a highway between Amarillo and his home at that time, Canyon.
Davis passed out and the pickup he was driving left the roadway, but it somehow came to a stop without a major crash. Davis’ heart had stopped, depriving his brain of oxygen until 40 minutes of CPR finally revived him.
Crawford had told the Reporter that Davis had some heart problems before the incident that involved arrhythmia. Since then, Davis had a pacemaker and stents implanted to help prevent that.
Crawford said at the beginning of Davis’ rehab stay that regaining memories was a slow process, saying it was “kind of like re-booting a computer. He’s becoming a new person.”
Davis recalled that while he was undergoing his rehab, the therapists working with him were “trying to make my memories come back — quizzing me.”
He said he felt it was “annoying,” and he “told them that I hated rehab.”
Davis fielded a few questions about his recovery, responding mostly in brief sentences, or just one or two words in most cases. Crawford said he has also been communicating in a similar fashion in conversations with family members.
Crawford said doctors had told the family that the brain injury suffered by Davis could take up to a year to heal.
“Every case is different,” Crawford said. “In his case, he retained all of his education. He has very limited memory from before the accident. It’s kind of like a blank slate. A lot of memories make up who you are.”
Davis had joined the SCFD as a firefighter in March 2012, and was voted Rookie of the Year in December 2013. He later was voted by his peers to a lieutenant position with SCFD.
Davis has been released by his doctor to go back to work, but may not happen immediately.
In the meantime, Crawford has invited Davis to hang out around the fire station with the crew.
“He has been working with human resources with the state system to see what his abilities are,” said Crawford, who grew up with Davis and the rest of their family in Burleson. “He’s about to get his driver’s license back.
“Obviously we want him to have a 100 percent recovery. But we’re happy with where he’s at. He’s alive and he should have a happy life. It’s just a reboot.
“He’s in transition between completing rehab and getting back to an independence. So his time in Glen Rose is kind of transitional. Eventually he will get his own apartment. So this is a positive step in the right direction.”
When Davis was able to get out and about, Crawford took him on a short road trip to Anna, Texas, where he visited with the firefighters there and tried on equipment. Crawford hoped that might trigger some of his memories.
Davis told the Reporter that he remembers “all the hunting I used to do, and hiking.”
He retained his ability to cook. He especially enjoys cooking beans and steaks, he said. Davis said he currently enjoys hunting, fishing and riding mountain bikes.
Crawford noted that, for things Davis has been experiencing since the incident, such as meeting people, his memory seems to be normal.
But when asked about the memories he lost, Davis said, “I feel terrible because I lost all my friends.”
At the time of the incident, Davis was working at Palo Duro State Park, southeast of Amarillo. He was lead operations ranger, serving as maintenance supervisor over the park’s operations team.
Former Somervell County resident Shannon Blalock, the superintendent of Palo Duro State Park, not only worked with Davis but she and her husband were also friends of his. They first met a few years ago when they both were employees at Dinosaur State Park near Glen Rose.
Davis was driving to the Blalock’s home to have dinner with them when the accident happened. Blalock and her husband Andy were among the first to stop to help, and fortunately both are certified in CPR.
“I don’t remember any of that,” Davis said last week. “I started remembering things at the end of last February.”
Some of the memories Davis has recalled involve the Blalocks, and he said that they “used to hang out.”
“I remember that,” Davis said. “They’re good people. She has great kids, too. They call me uncle A.J.”
CONNECTING THE DOTS
Crawford had noted that Davis retained his sense of humor, and had memories of some of his favorite music.
But, Crawford said, his stepbrother basically had a blank personality when he became conscious after nine days in a coma, and the recovery is a little like connecting the dots.
“It’s so random,” Crawford said. “He remembered Shannon’s kids before he remembered his sister.”
Davis said that Blalock traveled to Anna to visit with him when he was taking that first trip out with Crawford.
“He has certainly remained in the thoughts and prayers of the entire state park team,” Blalock said by phone Monday. “We certainly continue to have good thoughts about his continued progress.
“The whole team, we’re all good friends. We have professional and personal relationships. The work family continues to check on him, and we’ve been praying for the best possible outcome.”
Blalock recalled that Davis was a hard worker, but also had a jovial personality.
“At work he always kept up laughing,” Blalock said. “He has a great sense of humor.”
When asked what he thinks he may be doing a year from now, Davis responded, “Probably working at one of the state parks. I think it’s a good possibility. I feel good about it. I would like to be a lead ranger (again).”