Teen injured in hurricane returns home

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After spending a harrowing month recuperating from a car accident that happened in the midst of Hurricane Charley, Camryn Vilar was more than happy to wake up last week and look out at the mountains surrounding Hayden.

Returning home has been an uphill battle for Vilar, a 15-year-old who is about to enter his sophomore year at Hayden High School.

On Aug. 13, Vilar was one of four people seriously injured in an accident on Florida's Bee Line Expressway. A driver of a semi-trailer lost control of the truck in the winds of the hurricane and rolled on top of the car Vilar and his family were in.

Vilar suffered a broken right femur, a crushed right arm, a broken collarbone, two broken ribs, a severed spleen and a broken left wrist. His half-sister, Camille Vilar, died. His father suffered serious injuries, and another friend in the car was in a coma for three weeks.

"We are very thankful that Camryn is alive and that he is here healing," Vilar's mother, Deborah Armstrong, said.

Vilar was visiting his father for the summer in Florida, and the group was fleeing their three-story townhome in Orlando, hoping to reach the western part of the state before the hurricane struck.

Armstrong had hoped Vilar would be able to return to Routt County two weeks after the accident. She had wanted to leave Florida before Hurricane Frances hit. Bags were packed when doctors discovered blood clots in Vilar's leg, which eventually caused part of his lung to collapse.

Unable to evacuate, they watched Hurricane Frances roll through Orlando from the hospital windows, Armstrong said.

"As if what happened was not bad enough, this happened with these natural disasters going on around us," Armstrong said.

Vilar spent almost a month in Florida before flying by air ambulance to Denver Children's Hospital, where he adjusted to the altitude and went through more rehabilitation for nine days. On Sept. 19, Armstrong drove Vilar home to Hayden.

"His spirit is so much better to be home," Armstrong said. "There was an incredible change in him. The first morning, he looked out the window and there were the mountains."

Vilar, who has all his casts on and has a lot of progress to make before walking, is at home, where he is supported by a hospital bed and oxygen, Armstrong said. A nurse with the Visiting Nurse Association comes to the house every other day. Vilar also will begin home-schooling until he is well enough to return to Hayden High School.

The goal is for Vilar to be able to resume the activities he loves -- football and snowboarding -- in a year or two, Armstrong said. A more imminent goal is for Vilar to attend the Hayden homecoming football game Friday.

Armstrong hopes her son will be able to watch from the sidelines in his wheelchair.

Medical bills for Vilar's recovery are expected to exceed $3 million, Armstrong said. Although Armstrong, who is the human resource director at Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., has medical insurance, the amount of money to cover deductibles, copayments, flight costs and medical equipment will exceed $10,000.

A FEMA grant did cover the $15,000 expense to fly Vilar to Denver, but another $4,000 was paid in airport fees and ground transportation.

On Oct. 8, a fund-raiser will be held at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel to benefit Vilar. The benefit has a $10 donation at the door and includes a deejay, appetizer buffet, auction items and door prizes. The Camryn Vilar Benefit Fund has been set up at Wells Fargo Bank in Steamboat Springs.

Armstrong said the community already has shown strong support through the phone calls she received daily, the visits classmates made to Denver while Vilar was in the hospital and by organizing the benefit.

"We truly appreciate the community support that made the process, this unbelievable journey, so much easier to take," she said.

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