AHWATUKEE — An Ahwatukee family is delaying Thanksgiving until their son is out of the hospital. Even though he is returning home without a limb, and has a long road ahead, his mom tells ABC15 that she is more thankful than ever.
Zander Hendrix just turned 20 years old in a hospital bed.
“We call him a cactus all the time,” said mother, Toshia. “We say he’s prickly on the outside and squishy in the middle, like me.”
Zander, who played hockey and graduated from Desert Vista High School, wants to be a mechanical engineer.
He is also a gear head, which is how a recent Wednesday began.
“He was working on his motorcycle. A part came in that he had been waiting for, for about a month,” said Toshia.
The then 19-year-old decided to take his bike for a test spin. Minutes later, Zander's roommate's phone rang.
"And [Zander] wasn’t talking, but Daniel could hear voices. So Dan came downstairs and said, "Toshia, look up Zander‘s location. I don’t know what’s going on,"" the mother recounted.
“I looked up his location and a gentleman called me and said, "Is this Zander’s mom? I’m here with your son, he’s had an accident." And I hung up and said, "I’m on my way."”
The crash was just around the corner from the family’s home. Zander had taken a curve, lost control, and wrecked. Fortunately no other vehicles were involved.
“We pulled over right here and I started running,” said Toshia, revisiting the crash site for the first time after six days. “I was screaming "Where is he, where is he?""
"People were pointing, "He’s over there." And as I am running a woman said, "His leg is over here." And I glanced, but I was like, "Where is he?""
She found him at the base of a cactus.
Zander’s helmet had flown off and spines were in his scalp. His leg was also 35 feet away, according to Toshia.
“I was holding Zander‘s head and I was like "Hey buddy!""
"And he was like, "Mom I don’t know what happened,"” said Toshia, her voice cracking. “And I said, "It’s okay, buddy. I love you. Tell me you love me." He’s like, "I love you. I love you." I said, "I love you too, it’s gonna be fine."”
The mother, who works as a nail tech, could see his leg was ripped off.
The adrenaline kept Zander from realizing the severity, until a police officer put on the tourniquet.
“And he started screaming, "Oh my God, Mom. I can’t see my leg, I can’t feel my leg. Mom, mom, mom! Where is my leg?” And I’m like, "It’s okay buddy, we’re going to be fine. We got this,"”
One week, an ICU birthday, and multiple surgeries later, Zander is without his right leg and awaiting a prosthetic.
Toshia is still preaching the same message from minutes after the crash.
“There’s nothing stopping you. We will not let anything stop you,” she said.
“I know it’s your right leg, and I know you’re a car guy… but it’s fine, we’re going to figure it out! He’s just going to be amazing. I just know it,” according to Toshia.
The mother is choosing to focus on the positives.
“The fact that it’s just the leg, that’s the only catastrophic injury that he has. It is literally a miracle,” she said.
“I grew up on motorcycles and I haven’t always been a big helmet person. But now, after seeing what my son went through. I will 100% tell any parent, beg your child to wear a helmet.”
Toshia's other message is one of gratitude to Ahwatukee.
“I cannot tell you how amazing this community has been. I’ve been blown away,” she said, admitting that in recent years the political division has left her disheartened about community togetherness.
In a matter of days, people have donated more than $35,000 to help cover Zander’s prosthetic equipment and other ongoing expenses.
“He is watching that [GoFundMe] from his hospital bed and I know that sounds silly, but it is literally one of the biggest things giving him hope right now,” said Toshia. “He’s seeing how many people are donating to him. He keeps telling me, "Mom I didn’t think people liked me. I don’t know why they’re doing this for me."”
If you would like to help the family, you can donate here.
A fundraiser is also being held by Andy’s Custard, near 48th St and Warner, on Saturday, December 4th from 11am to 5pm.