KUNA, Idaho (KBOI) - A homecoming is around the corner, and for Kuna high school junior, Boone Bartlome it's expected to be way better than a school dance. Boone is coming home from an intense physical rehabilitation program at Denver's Craig Hospital.
Boone broke his neck during a high school football playoff game against Bishop Kelly High School in November. He was setting a block on the field when he got hit.
"I just remember it felt like forever falling to the ground. I just, I don't know, I laid on the ground and couldn't get up. (I) looked around, saw the ref, didn't know what to do, so I just waited," Boone told KBOI 2News.
The C-4 vertebrae in his neck gave way and he couldn't move.
After surgery in Boise, a bed opened up at Denver's Craig Hospital and Boone transferred to Colorado to begin almost two months of labor intensive rehabilitation. Boone worked with several different types of therapists and said he learned his healing process will take time.
"You're excited because you are doing something that you couldn't last week, even though it might just be the smallest flick of a thumb. But then at the same time, I see it as just a flick of a thumb," Boone explained.
While Boone is looking forward to coming home, "home" will be a little different. Construction has been underway for weeks. Changes are coming to Boone's bedroom, bathroom and bonus room. The doors will be wider, the floors will be hardwood and a wheelchair ramp will help Boone to the front door. Boone says he's been touched by the overwhelming community support he's received, and he also finds gratitude in a way most teenagers can't always comprehend.
"I couldn't ask for better parents. You see some people here that are alone. They have family coming in and out. It's a blessing to have them here every day," Boone told KBOI.
The Kuna High student always seems to find the silver lining. His mom, Dianna, said it's not always easy to watch her rodeo star and talented athlete face this challenge.
"It's really tough to watch your child go through something like this," Dianna said.
Dianna left Denver for a few days to come back and organize construction on the family's Kuna home. Dianna said therapy has been an intense commitment and Boone has had the chance to learn about his injury as well as learning how to live with his injury.
"Swimming pool therapy, therapy session in a robot machine that simulates walking and he can see himself in the mirror while he is doing this. To try to help connect the brain, the nerves the muscles; the whole system," Dianna said.
Dianna said witnessing Boone's dedication to recovery keeps her going.
"It makes us proud because he's been so brave. His bravery has actually helped us and others," Dianna said.
She also said the tough moments would affect any mother. She says when she has moments of weakness it's when she reflects about Boone's passion. She said Boone discovered his love of running and competing in track last year. As a junior in high school, Boone was already being recruited for college track teams.
"(It was) ultra-exciting for a junior in high school to have some of those options. That's heartbreaking to me that he is not going to have that opportunity," Dianna said.
But like Boone, Dianna pushes on. She also can't believe the amount of support her family has received and says she is so thankful.
"We're strong because Boone makes us strong, He is incredible"
Boone's family also says they are holding out hope one day he will able to walk. As for Boone, he says he is looking forward to seeing all his friends and has a message for them.
"It's still me. Nothing has changed. I will still be the same old goofball, just a little shorter."
Here's my full interview with Boone: