FORT WORTH -- Before the crash, Michael Batts was a quick learner and ranked 10th in his class at Paschal High School.
Now, studying requires hours of work with flashcards, notes and continual reviews.
Before the crash, Batts played alto saxophone in the marching band.
Now, after a full day of school, he often needs to sleep for two hours because of mental fatigue.
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Before the crash, Batts planned to go to college out of state, perhaps in South Carolina or California.
Now, he accepts that that isn't realistic anymore because he needs to be closer to doctors and his family.
Michael Batts' life can be categorized in two chapters: There's "before" the Nov. 7, 2010, crash, which left him with a broken pelvis, broken ribs and a severe head injury.
And there's "now."
Batts, a senior at Paschal, has had to relearn to walk, hold a pencil and talk. He still deals with memory gaps.
But watching a recent TV interview with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, the 17-year-old realized how far he has come.
The special on Giffords, who continues her recovery after being shot in the head, featured home video showing her relearning how to smile -- and crying when she couldn't express herself.
"It put everything in perspective for me from this past year," Batts said. "I had thought: 'Yeah, I had a brain injury, but that's what doctors and therapists do. They help you fix it, and you get better.' But watching that, I realized how hard it is, and a lot of people don't get better."
On Nov. 7, 2010, Batts was supposed to sing with the school choir for a daylong celebration of Paschal's 125th anniversary that drew alumni from across the decades. But on his way to the festivities, Fort Worth police said, he failed to stop at a stop sign at West Vickery Boulevard and Old Benbrook Road and was hit by a pickup.
He was unconscious for days.
Even after he woke up, he couldn't remember visitors or therapy from the previous day.
"He didn't say his first spoken words until Dec. 31," said his mother, Paula Batts. "I had stepped out of the room, but his doctor told me Michael whispered, 'Hi, Mom. I love you.' We didn't even know if he would ever wake up again let alone be able to walk or talk again. And to come as far as he has? We are so grateful."
Nationally, about 1.7 million children and adults suffer traumatic brain injury each year. About 3.1 million children and adults in the United States live with a lifelong disability from a traumatic brain injury, according to the Brain Injury Association of America.
While the number of people surviving traumatic brain injuries continues to increase, each case is unique, said Dr. Brent Masel, a Galveston-based neurologist who is the association's national medical director.
"It's so much more complex than, say, a broken bone," Masel said. "Everyone knows what happens when you break a bone. You put it in a cast and it gets better. It's hard to tell what will happen with a brain injury."
Batts' therapy includes working on motor skills, speech, memory and social skills, which involves, among other things, group therapy with other teens recovering from similar injuries.
Through the therapy, Batts got to know the families of others suffering from brain injuries who were still in a coma or couldn't communicate as well.
"I'm really glad I survived and recovered as quickly as I did, but I feel bad sometimes for doing so well," he said. "I know I shouldn't feel guilty, but I wish there was something I could do to make them feel better."
More than a year later, Batts has little or no memory of the wreck itself, the weeks leading up to it and the initial weeks of recovery.
Though the year has been challenging, his mother said their family is grateful for the progress he's made.
"Just the fact that his life was spared and he was able to get back into school and slowly get back together is just a miracle," she said.
While he no longer holds the No. 10 ranking in his class, he is still in his class's top 10 percent, and he still plans to attend college. He has been accepted at the University of North Texas and is awaiting responses from other universities.
He wants to study to become a rehabilitation therapist.
"Last year, I couldn't remember things from one class to the next some days," he said. "My memory is getting a lot better each day. I have to work so much harder for school now, but I'm ready for college."
Eva-Marie Ayala, 817-390-7700