Severely injured Warhill High student doing 'much better' following surgery

Juan Spence is back home—again.

The rising senior at Warhill High School was severely injured as a passenger in a car crash after school May 22. Following the incident, the 17-year-old spent 64 days under careful watch at VCU Medical Center. He briefly returned home July 25, but another necessary brain surgery on July 31 meant another hospital stint. Now, there's an opportunity to look forward.

"He's been doing much better," said Elizabeth Butler, Juan's mom.

Throughout the recovery process, grandparents, aunts and uncles traveled from other states to give their love. Friends journeyed to Richmond to visit him in the hospital. Juan's track teammates made hats adorned with the hashtag "Juan Love" to show their support. A page set up to raise money for medial expenses on has seen more than $14,000 in donations since May 23.

Juan's vision remains limited, but it's slowly recovering. In about two weeks, he will follow up with neurosurgeons back in Richmond. Other appointments with cardiologists, neurologists and the like will also continue. Yet Butler said Juan's swelling has already greatly decreased and much of the initial pain has subsided. When he first arrived at the hospital following the accident, doctors told Butler that her son had a 5 percent chance of survival.

Even more important, he's simply home. He was discharged for the second time Aug. 4. Now, Juan can see his friends more easily and more often, and home-cooked meals are once again on the menu.

"I'm looking forward to things settling down," Butler said. "I'm just grateful that we're home."

Juan's already looking toward the new school year, which he hopes to start with everyone else at Warhill. Just three classes stand between Juan, an advanced diploma and, hopefully, a 4.0 GPA. College, perhaps at the College of William and Mary, U.Va or somewhere Ivy League, is also often on his mind.

As much as ever, the stream of support from family, friends, the school system and others in the community inspires the family to look to the future.

"We just want people to know that we're truly grateful for the prayers and the support," Butler said.

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

Want to donate?

Juan's family has raised $14,000 of a $50,000 goal to help cover medical costs. To donate, visit

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