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In a coma, Ogema teen able to open one eye

Landon Hochstetler

Maybe it was the fresh air, or the brightness of being outdoors.

For whatever reason, Landon Hochstetler opened his good eye Wednesday as the comatose teenager from Ogema, Minn., was being moved from North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale to Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul, where he'll undergo coma stimulation therapy.

Once he settled in at the long-term recovery facility, he kept the eye open for about 30 minutes, the longest period since he started opening it fleetingly last week, said his older sister Shanda Hochstetler, 29.

The eye - his other one is infected - ­wasn't tracking movement, but it still was cause for optimism.

"For us, it's sort of a glimmer of hope, that first step toward growing awareness," she said.

Landon will turn 17 years old Wednesday. He's been in a coma since being hit by a car Sept. 13 while rollerblading on a Becker County highway.

The lives of his parents and seven sisters now revolve around his recovery in the Twin Cities. His two younger sisters continue their homeschooling there, while Shanda and another older sister who are in graduate school have switched to taking online classes so they can spend more time at the hospital.

More than a month into the coma, the family holds on to hope, Shanda said.

"You have to prepare for the worst, but we're praying that this miracle we're praying for will appear soon, and it is," she said Thursday. "We've seen some miraculous things with him, so we're hoping that continues."

The driver of the car that hit Hochstetler was arrested at the scene for a probation violation. Ross Thomas Dodd, 30, of Ogema was charged with driving after cancellation and remains at the Becker County Jail as the county waits for results of the speed analysis and toxicology tests from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Sheriff Tim Gordon said Thursday.

The results will determine whether Dodd faces additional charges, he said.

Hochstetler's extensive injuries included a broken left leg, damaged lung, brain injury and swelling and a skull fracture.

The family is encouraged by community support, Shanda said. The guestbook on Landon's CaringBridge website has more than 1,800 entries.

Today, Pizza Hut in Detroit Lakes will host a fundraiser organized by the youth group from Strawberry Lake Mennonite Church. Landon and his family are members of the church, and he plays on its hockey team.

Church members cut firewood to heat the Hochstetlers' home for the entire winter and have been mowing their lawn and tending their chickens, Shanda said.

And, like the family, they continue to pray for Landon's recovery.

"It's been such a blessing," Shanda said. "It just means so much to us that we're not going through this in a vacuum, that we're not alone, that other people are going through this fight with us."