Dave and his 14-year-old son, Christian, were riding dirt bikes at an off-road cycle park in Buckeye when Dave saw Christian crash on a jump. He quickly realized Christian had fallen on the downhill side of the jump—a blind spot to oncoming bikers. He ran to the top of the jump and waved his hands, frantically trying to stop the next wave. Three riders hit Dave, and before he blacked out, he saw a bike land on his boy.  

When Dave came to, he attempted to run to Christian, but he kept falling. He didn’t realize his ankle was broken. Despite his injury, he fought his way to Christian’s side. “When I got to my son, he was unconscious. I knew it was a worst-case scenario. I felt helpless. I had to collect my emotions and figure out how to get up,” Dave says. 

The plaque that displays the number on Chrisitan's bike the day of the accident is framed in a case
The number on Christian's dirt bike the day of the accident.

Lori, Christian’s mom, was at home when she received a phone call from her husband, who told her, “I need you to pray. There was an accident, and Christian is going to the hospital. Just pray.” Lori dropped to her knees, prayed and headed to Phoenix Children’s. She arrived in tandem with the helicopter transporting Christian.  

“My heart was racing. I had no details,” Lori says. “Right away, they took me back. They embraced me outside the trauma room and said, ‘We’re here.’”   

Christian had suffered a traumatic brain injury. He underwent multiple surgeries on his brain within the first 24 hours, a shunt placement, and jaw and nose reconstruction. Doctors said they weren’t sure Christian would live. In response, his family started a prayer line that spread to 20 countries. This unexpected swell of support carried them through the hardest time of their lives. 

A purple bracelet that says Pray for Christian rests on a table

Creating a culture of positivity

Christian would spend the next five months in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, or PICU. He survived multiple surgeries and worked to regain function. Throughout it all, his parents were on a mission. “We realized how hard it must be for the doctors and nurses daily,” Dave says. “To come in and see these types of injuries—how can they be so positive?” Lori adds, “We wanted to give back to the staff by creating a positive culture for others on our floor.” 

They began by welcoming families to a support group held in the interfaith chapel on campus. Dave and Lori found opportunities to invite parents everywhere at Phoenix Children’s—including the elevator—and the gathering nearly doubled in size due to their efforts.   

The group is parent-led and guided by chaplains. It’s a space for families to share their stories and receive prayer for their child. Javi Casas, a chaplain at Phoenix Children’s, says, “The patients and their families—they’re not just another number. Their story matters. We try to make sure they feel heard. That’s a big part of our job.” 

The family continued to look for ways to give. They commenced a long-lasting trivia game outside of Christian’s inpatient room. For Christmas, they gave gifts to the staff. One time they brought food for the entire PICU. “They gave to make sense of what happened,” Javi says. “It was one of the most amazing things I’ve witnessed, a family who should have been asking, ‘What can you do for my child?’ instead kept saying, ‘What can I do for you?’”

A day in the life of Christian 

Today, Christian lives at home again after a five-month stay at Phoenix Children’s. He needs 24/7 care from nurses, physical therapists and family members. His days are full of rest, rehabilitation and moments of love. Here’s a look inside his life.  

Lori puts her hand on Christian's shoulder as he lays in his bed. She is greeting him. She holds her two year old daughter, Fiona, in her left arm.

Christian prefers to be in his organized room, and one day, he hopes to live in Florida and work as a crime scene investigator. He enjoys Marvel Comic books, video games and time with family. 

A close up shot of Christian's fingers

Christian’s family is always on the lookout for miracles. At first, they wanted to focus on Christian walking again. But then they realized the importance of celebrating every moment—the opening of the eyes, the shift of a finger—actions that took Christian months to accomplish.  

“When we share with Christian how excited we are about the little things, it creates momentum,” Dave says. “It’s not asking, ‘Can you bench press 500 pounds?’ It’s saying, ‘Can you move your finger? Awesome, let’s try to move two fingers next time.’” 

Hannah holds Fiona
Hannah holds Fiona
A close up shot of the graphic on Hannah's t-shirt. Its of Hannah in purple scrubs and she pushes Christian in his wheelchair. The shirt reads "Hannah's Banana's"

Hannah Neiyer, a home health nurse, has become part of the family. The household affectionately calls her “Hannah’s Bananas.” She first joined Christian’s care team at Phoenix Children’s one month after his accident. When Christian transitioned home, Hannah changed her schedule to part time at Phoenix Children’s so she could remain by his side.  

Dave watches as Lori prays with Christian
A close up shot of Lori holding Christian's hand. The bible rests beneath their hands

Dave and Lori believe faith is a key factor in recovery. “It’s 100% the reason Christian is still here,” Lori says. They hope Phoenix Children’s Spiritual Care program continues to receive the donations it needs. “You are in a place of darkness. To have people like the chaplains come in and show life and love—those were our best days,” Lori says.  

Lori holds up shoes for Christian to choose from. Dave stands behind her. They are both at the foot of Christian's bed.

To communicate which shoes he would like to wear, Christian tracks the style he wants with his eyes. “It’s important to give Christian choices and talk to him like any other 15-year-old,” Hannah says. Offering options—for example, “Do you want to sit in your favorite spot outside?” or “Would you like to watch CSI or Murder Mystery?”—is a way to respect his freedom.     

Three people, Lori, Dave, and Hannah, help Christian move into an upright position
Dave kneels behind Christian on the bed. He holds Christian's neck as support.

It takes three people to transition Christian into an upright position. During surgery, physicians removed a section of his skull. He wears a helmet when moving to protect his brain until this bone can be replaced. “When I get him up, I’ll say, ‘It’s time for my hug,’” Hannah says. “Before I lift him to the chair, I squeeze him. I interact with Christian like he’s a brother slash best friend.”  

A close up shot of Super Cooper's face
Hannah helps Christian sip water. Super Cooper lays at the foot of Christian's wheelchair.

Super Cooper, a service dog, is another vital member of Christian’s care team. He enjoys daily walks with the family, and he often can be found resting at Christian’s feet. 

A close up shot of Christian sipping a small amount of water from a spoon. Hannah holds it up to his mouth.

Christian continues to gain strength. He’s off several of the medications he was taking at Phoenix Children’s, and he can sit in a chair more hours per day. As far as respiratory health goes, his tracheostomy, a hole that surgeons make in the windpipe, is now capped. This means he no longer needs assistance to breathe.

A poster with words of encouragement from hospital staff written on it. One message says, "Christian and family, we are so happy you are at this point to go home. You guys got this and he's going to be so happy to go home." From Kayla in occupational therapy.

Posters covered in words of encouragement adorn the home. Each one is a daily reminder of how far Christian has come and that he is not alone. There's a whole army of people cheering him on.  

Fiona looks at the camera. She holds her water and straw.
Dave picks up Fiona. He has a huge smile on his face. Jesse watches from the background.

The family exudes warmth and joy. They continue to choose positivity amidst difficult circumstances. Hannah reports she never hears Dave and Lori complain. She watches them do everything they can for Christian and still make time for their other children, Fiona and Jesse.    

Jesse and Christian play video games in their living room. Dave helps place Christian's hands on the controller.

Christian is a big fan of video games. He enjoys playing Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto with Jesse. Family members assist Christian by wrapping his hands around the controller. 

Jesse plays guitar in his garage. He has a cool blue lighting setup and a set of drums.

Younger brother Jesse was at the cycle park the day of the accident. He helped his dad in the thick of the crisis, saying, “I’m praying, Dad. Christian is going to be OK. We’re going to focus and get to the hospital.” Child Life specialists and counselors supported Jesse during Christian’s stay at Phoenix Children’s.  

Today, Jesse plays basketball, volunteers, and is a guitarist in three bands. “He is busy, but it is still hard. He misses talking with his brother,” Lori says through tears. Dave adds, “Jesse is a strong young man. He fights as hard as his brother is fighting. Some days, he is the rock for us all.”

Dave helps Christian pedal on a stationary bike.

When Dave was hit by the bikers, he broke his ankle, jaw and fingers. He has since healed from his injuries. External markers that told the story of a father willing to sacrifice it all for his son are no longer visible on his body. But his act of love will not be forgotten. He continues to offer his life by showing up for Christian every day.   

The whole family sits on the bed with Christian. Dave supports Christian's neck with his hands.

Early on in Christian’s medical journey, Hannah wrote “Keep Moving Mountains” on his white board. These words would become his motto.  

Christian’s family knows his recovery is far from over, but they also know where he is now is not the end. “Christian is a miracle story. He survived a horrible accident and fought his way through injury and doubt,” Lori says. “We can’t wait for him to come back to Phoenix Children’s and say to the other children, ‘Don’t give up. Nothing is impossible with faith.’”

Support Spiritual Care

Phoenix Children’s spiritual care program supports families in need, regardless of their faith background. The program is funded entirely by donations. 

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