Woods Cross — It’s been a roller-coaster ride for the family of a man who was hit by a FrontRunner train two weeks ago.
Doctors at McKay-Dee Hospital Center say Alex Suarez continues to improve. He has several injuries, including a broken leg, an injured knee, a broken arm and a head injury. He has a long recovery ahead and a lot of medical bills.
Suarez had just started a new job, and his COBRA health insurance had expired two days before the accident, said Sergio Pio, Suarez’s brother-in-law.
While he's fighting to get better, his community is rallying behind him. At Legacy Preparatory Academy in North Salt Lake — where Suarez’s two oldest children, Dylan and Tomas, attend school — students, faculty and staff held a pizza party Friday to help pay medical bills.
Students and faculty donated $2 per slice to help the Suarez family. It’s a small gesture for a family that does so much for the community.
“He's really nice, and, when you need help, he always will help you,” classmate Savannah Bishop said.
Jadryk Winkler, 10, wants to support his friend Dylan, who helped him since he arrived at the school. “Back when I first started this school, I was very shy,” Winkler said. “He was the first person to step up.”
Dylan Suarez knows it’s good to have friends who love and support you.
“I like my friends because they're all awesome,” the 10-year-old said.
And it’s not just the kids and faculty that are helping. Two local pizza restaurants, Zeponie Pizza in Centerville and Pizza Pie Café in Bountiful, donated a lot of pizza.
“We saw that the family, they were going to do a fundraiser, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to help the family out and get some money for them,” said Jake Thompson, owner of Zeponie Pizza in Centerville. In all, there were about 150 pizzas donated for the fundraiser.
The school raised nearly $10,000 for the Suarez family.
Jennifer Townsend, president of the Builders, the school’s parent-teacher organization, said the parents are very involved at the school. They are part of the community, and when they heard what had happened, they knew they had to do something.
Along with the pizza party, Townsend arranged for a group called Lunch Angels to make lunches for the boys through the end of the year, so the family can concentrate on Alex’s recovery. In five minutes, six weeks of lunches were covered.
Police say Alex Suarez got off the northbound commuter-rail train shortly after 7:45 a.m. on Jan. 7 and was hit by another FrontRunner train moments later while crossing the southbound tracks, police say. Investigators still aren't sure whether Suarez was just distracted or in a hurry.
“We went through a roller coaster. The last 17 days have been crazy, up and down, good and bad, but we celebrate every single victory that we can get on this long fight,” Pio said.
On Friday, doctors said Suarez was in fair condition and was making progress.
“Now we are celebrating again,” Pio said. “The doctors are telling us that he might be able to get his respirator off pretty soon.”
Dylan and his family spend almost every day visiting his dad at the hospital.
“We ask him if he can understand, and every time we ask him to do something, he does,” Dylan said.
Dylan’s friends are trying to distract him by having play dates and playing video games.
“We all feel bad for him, but we’re just acting like it’s been normal,” Winkler said.
While he appreciates his friends' love and support, Dylan is also finding comfort in a bear given to him at the hospital.
“There's this little teddy bear thing that the hospital gave me, and it's called a Poppy Bear, and I always hug it,” Dylan Suarez said, “and I feel that if I hug it, it goes directly to my dad.”