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West Fargo student recovering after horrific snowmobile crash

Charley Weber works on agility drills with therapist Lane Lunde on Friday at the Sanford Power Center in south Fargo. (Forum Communications)

WEST FARGO - Charley Weber was riding on the back of a buddy's snowmobile about 10:30 p.m. New Year's Eve near Horace enjoying the last night of 2012.

For the West Fargo ninth-grader, it was almost the last night of his life.

The speeding sled hit a field approach and he and the driver were rocketed from the machine.

The driver was badly injured with a concussion, broken ribs, a broken foot and bleeding from a gash in his thigh that would require 100 stitches.

Charley was thrown 25 to 30 feet and hit something so hard the cellphone in his pocket bent to conform to the shape of his thigh.

Charley hit the ground so hard his brain compressed against his skull.

Without his helmet, he would have died, his father Jeff Weber said.

In minutes, Horace's first responders arrived. By then, Charley's body had gone into convulsions due to his traumatic brain injury.

He was taken to Essentia Health in Fargo near death, and a local transplant team was notified in case they had to remove his organs.

Charley spent four days in the intensive care unit at Essentia.

He was then transferred to the downtown Sanford Hospital, where it took him a week and a half to relearn how to walk. Another two weeks were spent in Sanford's South University Drive rehabilitation unit.

At first, there was no stimulus for Charley whatsoever. No radio. No TV.

As he progressed, he could see one friend, then three, then five. Then he went to church. The highlight was sitting with the West Fargo wrestling team at the state tournament.

On Friday, he was lifting weights, bending and stretching in an hourlong workout at Sanford Power Center in south Fargo.

"The main miracle is that Charley's come so far," said his father, a physical education teacher at West Fargo's Cheney Middle School.

He said Charley's conditioning from football and wrestling has been a boon for him in recovery

Charley's mother, West Fargo STEM Center Principal Michelle Weber, said she and her husband split their time getting Charley to and from physical, occupational and speech therapy; and vision and neurological testing.

They also have Charley's younger sister to care for.

Michelle Weber said her son still needs extra time to process what he takes in. Charley also sees double, and wears glasses, with the lenses taped so he sees one image.

The Webers are thankful for the help of their friends and the community.

Two fundraisers are planned to help the Weber family with medical bills - already well beyond the $100,000 mark - tied to Charley's injury and recovery.

There will be a spaghetti dinner and silent auction from 5 to 10 p.m. March 3 at Grazies Italian Grill in south Fargo.

The suggested donation is $10 for adults and $5 for youths, with children under age 6 free. T-shirts will be sold for $10, said Fargo Police Lt. Joel Vettel, a friend of the Webers'.

A "Chuck it Dodgeball Tournament" is scheduled March 19 in the Cheney Middle School gymnasium.

The cost is $15 per participant, which includes a T-shirt. The tourney is open to Cheney, STEM Center, Sheyenne 9th Grade Center and West Fargo High School students and staff.

The event will include food, raffles and inflatable games. All proceeds will go to the Weber family.

"He asked if he could play and we said, 'No!' " Michelle Weber said.

Charley will be out of sports for a year, she said.

The goal now is to get him back in school for the fourth quarter, she said.

To close his workout Friday, Charley ran a few short-timed sprints.

It's "amazing to be able to do this kind of stuff. It's been great," he said.

"I've watched programs where (people have) almost died and they come back and get better," Charley said.

Now, he says he's got the chance to be better than he was before, "to be an inspiration to other people."