5-year-old takes first steps after drunk driver leaves him, brother in wheelchairs

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KATV) — On June 16 around 7 p.m., Darrell and Demetrius, also known as “DJ,” Hughes were on their way to visit their dad at work with their mom, Domynique Hammonds, when she said they were hit by a drunk driver. Hammonds said she was headed towards the Fair Park area when a car started coming directly towards them. The car collided with them head-on and changed their lives forever.

“God truly blessed them, he wrapped his arms around them because I had no idea what the outcome was going to be besides I knew they were hurt really bad,” Hammonds said.

The boys were rushed to the hospital with extensive injuries. DJ had surgery on his spine from his L2 to his L4 and also fractured his pelvis. Darrell’s injuries were far more severe. He ruptured his intestines, and had to have surgery to remove two inches, as well as surgery on his spine from his L2 to his T11, and surgery on his brain for a fractured skull. Luckily, Hammonds said they were able to stop the bleeding in his brain.

“Honestly when he made it to the hospital they weren’t sure he was going to make it because he had lost so much blood from his head injury, but after the surgeries, he pulled through,” Hammonds said.

The mom was told to prepare for the worst, and that there would be a good chance the boys may never walk again. Because Darrell had to have a nerve removed from his leg to reconnect his spinal cord, his odds were even worse.

“As of right now, he’s healing properly, we’ve got some movement in his toes, but we’re still working on it,” Hammonds said, “They’re saying his chance of walking has increased.”

The boys were able to come home from the hospital on Aug. 18, and have continued to fight to someday walk again. The youngest, DJ, is seeing a lot of progress. On Oct 9, he was cleared to bear weight on his pelvis once again.

“They were still kind of iffy because, like I said, they’d seen movement randomly but they just weren’t sure, and Friday as his therapist was taking him in and out of his chair, showing him how to get in and out, she was like let’s try something new,” Hammonds said.

His therapist hooked him up to a harness on a treadmill, and DJ took his first steps since June.

“It was amazing to see him put so much effort in trying to lift his leg,” Hammonds said, “I was so excited, even though I teared up like a little bitty baby.”

DJ takes his first steps after a drunk driver leaves him and his brother in wheelchairs. (Credit: Domynique Hammonds)

Hammonds said it’s hard for Darrell to see his little brother pass him up in progress.

“He (Darrell) has his moments where he’s like, he may not be able to (walk) and he will, but we try to keep him positive and out of the gloomy mood,” Hammonds said.

However, seeing a small movement has kept him motivated, and the boys are encouraged by each other’s progress.

“It’s always great to see one of them learn something new because the other one, he’s going to learn it even it takes two to three times, he’s going to get it now,” Hammonds said. “Our favorite saying is we take it one day at a time, we don’t look at what we couldn’t do yesterday, but we look at what we’re trying to do the next day.”

Before the accident, Hammonds said it was hard to get the boys to stop running. Even in wheelchairs, she said they continue to move at a runner’s pace. Darrell thinks of his wheelchair as having “wheels for legs.”

“Our favorite saying is we take it one day at a time, we don’t look at what we couldn’t do yesterday but we look at what we’re trying to do the next day,” Hammonds said.

The progress hasn’t been without challenges. Hammonds said the medical expenses have taken a huge toll on their family, and she’s now gone back to work.

“It’s one of those things where I break down from time to time but I don’t let them see me do it,” she said.

Not only are they paying off massive bills, but Hammonds said they’re also in need of a truck. Currently, they only have a car, and the parents often have to take turns going to doctor’s appointments because it’s hard to fit both of them, and the boys and their wheelchairs. Taking care of both kids at the same time alone is difficult. They currently have a GoFundMe to help cover the expenses.

The mom said taking care of the boys is like having newborns again, but now they can talk. She and their dad had to carry them and change their diapers throughout the day and night.

“It is overbearing as a mother, when you first have your babies it’s always oh they’re going to do this, they’re going to do that, I’m going to have them in this, football, all of that, and for me to feel like I’m backstepping,” Hammonds said, “It’s just like the cycle repeated, but it’s twins this time.”

The boys have also slipped into depression from time to time, not wanting to see old friends because they’re unable to do what they once were.

“I keep reminding them that I won’t put anything more on them than you can bear, so just remember that even though we’re doing this it’s just a trial, if you can get over the hump it’s just a process,” Hammonds said.

While it’s been a challenge, Hammonds said it’s moving smoothly, and the boys have been helpful no matter what the task is. They’ve also maintained a happy spirit.

“To see them like this in their spirit and not giving up, not crying and complaining about everything else that they could complain about since they’re in this situation, they’re just, they’re blessed,” Hammonds said.

The family has held onto their faith since the beginning.

“Every day they pray and every day they see different improvement,” Hammonds said.

The family is thankful for the prayers and support they’ve received so far, and they ask that people continue.

“We’re thankful for everything, and we just ask that people continue to keep us in mind because this is a challenge to be my age in this situation,” Hammonds said.