On February 21, 2012, 16-year-old Andrew Winfrey started his day like any other. The 10th grade athlete climbed out of bed, ate breakfast, hugged and kissed his mom goodbye. He cranked his truck, pulled out of the driveway, and started down a road that he traveled every day. But this day was not like any other, because as Andrew made his way to an 8:00 dental appointment, something happened that would change his life forever.
It happened that morning.
“It had rained the night before, and into the early hours of the morning—just enough to make the roads slippery,” explains Andrew Winfrey’s mother, Holly. As Andrew rounded a familiar curve, the slippery pavement caused him to lose control of his truck. “I tried to correct it, but I overcorrected it,” Andrew says. His vehicle jumped the curve and collided with a tree, trapping him inside of his truck with his left foot stuck tight.
When the paramedics arrived, Andrew was unconscious and barely breathing. “It took them 45 minutes to get him out of his truck; they had to cut him out. The paramedics had to revive him several times…but they weren’t going to give up on him,” Holly says.
Once Andrew was freed from his truck, he was airlifted to Huntsville Hospital, where he stayed in the NICU for four weeks. During this time, Andrew was in a coma. His family, friends, and church were in constant prayer for him. Holly was willing to try anything.
“I played the audio of Cullman football games, hoping that Andrew could hear them. The announcer even gave him shout-outs,” she says.
Still in a coma, Andrew was eventually transported to Shepherd Center in Atlanta. For six weeks, Andrew went through Shepherd Center’s PREP Program. When they had done all they could do, Andrew was sent home.
“We came home on May 1st, while Andrew was still in a coma, but home health came with us,” Holly says. On June 15th, Andrew emerged from his coma. Holly explains that at first he couldn’t speak, but would respond and follow commands. “He started talking ten days after he came out of the coma. His first word was ‘Mom’” Holly says with a smile.
It was at this time that Andrew’s journey to recovery began. The former football, baseball, and basketball player had to relearn everything; things that came easy before the accident were now a challenge. Eating, drinking through a straw, talking, and going to the restroom were only a few of the obstacles that Andrew faced at the beginning of his journey.
“It was a slow process, but he progressed more and more each day,” says Holly.
“They weren’t patient enough to feed me—I love to eat,” Andrew smiles.
On July 17th, Andrew went back to Shepherd Center as an in-patient, and this time stayed for three weeks. He then moved to Shepherd’s outpatient program, Pathways, which he completed in October. During this time he went through physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and occasionally, recreational therapy.
Andrew came home for good on October 12th, and wasted no time getting back into the rhythm of things. That very night was his high school’s homecoming, and he escorted the Cullman High School homecoming queen out onto the field. The following month, Andrew started becoming socially active in school again. In the summer of 2013, he began taking academic classes. With hard work and determination, Andrew completed enough makeup work to graduate on time, in May of 2013.
Currently, Andrew maintains his progress with physical, occupational, and speech therapy, and also works out twice a week with a personal trainer. He is taking a math class at Wallace State. Next semester he plans to take on more classes.
“He also helps tutor 3rd and 6th grade students in math at Cold Springs,” explains Holly.
In his free time, Andrew likes to watch movies. His favorites are Facing the Giants, God’s Not Dead, and Heaven is For Real. “I also watch SportsCenter a lot…actually, I probably watch it for about 95% of my TV-watching privileges,” Andrew laughs.
Holly reflects on her son’s journey: “We’ve always tried to work together. From day one, the church and the school would help us with whatever we needed. Our church has been especially supportive of Andrew. Our preacher there is like a mentor to him. As for the struggles we’ve faced, we don’t really look at these obstacles as a challenge, we just do it, ya know? We make it happen.”
An abundance of support came from Andrew’s teammates. The baseball team wrote ‘AW11’ on the field, wore ‘Pray for Andrew’ shirts, and had Andrew’s number stitched on the side of their hats. The football players also put Andrew’s football number on the side of their helmets. Surrounding schools showed support with shirts and banners.
“I was shocked at the amount of support we received—even from our rival school Hartselle, who had AW11 on their outfield fence. Walker baseball players also sent a signed baseball bat that’s still in Andrew’s room. It’s amazing how these teams came together for Andrew,” Holly says.
Before the accident, Andrew played football, basketball, and baseball. By the time Andrew was in his second year of high school, he had already made plans to attend a specific college in order to play baseball. “God has helped me get through this by allowing me to get just a little better each day. And He has told me again and again that while I was good at baseball, and good at football, He has a better plan for me,” says Andrew.
Now Andrew shares his testimony at schools and churches. Holly recalls that the first time Andrew spoke was at his home church, Temple Baptist, where many people were saved. “I want to be a preacher, or maybe a missionary. Wherever the Lord calls me to go, I plan on telling the world about Him,” Andrew says.
Looking back on what he has experienced, Andrew expresses, “Most people would look at it as a tragedy, but I look at it as a blessing from the Lord. If the wreck hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have had the courage to go to different schools and speak about God. And I won’t know how many lives I’ve actually touched until I meet the Lord, but I know it will be worth it.” 78