For Keeton Doggett, returning to the intersection where he almost died when he was 15 years old is an emotional, stressful experience. The memory of the truck coming toward him is as vivid as the memory of the pain he felt after it ran over his body.
“I have flashbacks every time I go by there,” Doggett, now 17, said. He usually tries to avoid the intersection at First Street and Hitt Road.
Arctic Circle, Doggett’s employer at the time, was across the street from where he was hit. He had made the trip several times when a white truck failed to stop on Aug. 24, 2017, hitting him in the crosswalk.
The driver entered the parking lot of a nearby gas station. Doggett thought at first the driver was going to check on what happened, but he instead drove south and fled the scene. An off-duty emergency medical technician who was near the collision assisted Doggett until first responders arrived.
For the past 17 months Doggett has been recovering from being run over. The recovery process has involved multiple surgeries and months of struggle for Doggett as he relearned to do basic tasks.
The crash was difficult for Doggett’s family too. Corrina Risenmay, Doggett’s grandmother and guardian, said she had a feeling the hospital was calling about her son before they told her he was injured.
She said the doctors told her Doggett needed surgery immediately. His diaphragm had split open and several organs had been pushed into his upper body, millimeters from his heart.
“They had to do emergency surgery because if they had waited any longer, he would have been dead,” Risenmay said.
After the emergency surgery to repair the damage to Doggett’s diaphragm, he needed two surgeries on his hip to install pins. He spent the next week in Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center’s intensive care unit. On the fourth day his lungs had to be drained of the blood and water that had built up inside. A month and a half into his hospital stay the doctor determined Doggett would need another surgery on his hip to install a plate that’s still there today.
“After that I had to learn how to walk all over again. That was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”
Doggett spent the next several weeks in a wheelchair, then moved to crutches. His recovery was punctuated with regular examinations to monitor his recovery. Although he had limited movement, he spent the next two months in a bed in his family’s living room, where his grandmother and a nurse could help him recover. It wasn’t until May 2018 that he could lie down properly.
Risenmay said the family had to make adjustments so Doggett could move in and out of the house. The neighbors pitched in, helping to make a ramp for his wheelchair.
Some of the damage is permanent. Doggett still wakes up with pain from the pins in his hip, and he can’t run. Too much stress on his hips could cause a fracture in his pelvis.
Doggett kept up with his schoolwork by taking classes online while he recovered, against the advice of his doctors who said he should focus on recovering. He’s since returned to class, and though some of his classmates know about the accident, he’s happy most of them don’t ask about it.
“They treat me normal, which is what I wanted,” Doggett said.
These experiences are fresh in Doggett’s mind as the case against the man accused of hitting him proceeds.
Kacey Spencer, 24, was charged in August 2018 for leaving the scene of an accident. Spencer never came forward to admit his involvement but his friends and coworkers became suspicious after pictures of the trucks released by the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office resembled his 2009 Ford F-250. A coworker told the sheriff’s office that Spencer made modifications to his truck days after the crash. Spencer has denied hitting the victim and fleeing the scene.
Doggett said he was able to forgive Spencer, but he can’t forget.
“I wondered a lot why he didn’t stop and left me there to die,” Doggett said. “He’s a coward.”
Doggett’s family is planning to request restitution for the financial costs of this medical care. Risenmay said most of the expenses were covered by Medicaid, and thus most of the restitution would refund the federal government. She said, however, that Doggett will need more treatment in the future, including surgery to replace his hip plate throughout his life.
In the meantime, Doggett is focusing on his future. The classes he took while recovering means he’ll graduate next year, and he plans to study architecture or medicine in college.
“He survived something that probably not a whole lot of people would have,” Risenmay said.
A pretrial hearing in Spencer’s case is scheduled for 10 a.m. Feb. 26 in Bonneville County Courthouse. Spencer was not arrested when he was charged, but was instead issued a summons.