Day 1

When we got to the hospital at 5 am, we were immediately ushered into a little room by two doctors. After introducing themselves and shaking hands with us, they explained that at around 1:00, Dante had been traveling down a dark two-lane highway, and had gone off the road in a construction area. He had traveled 700 feet in a roadside ditch, but other than the car having some body damage – the airbags hadn’t even gone off – he was probably ok at that point, other than some probable disorientation as a result of the experience. He got out of his car to flag down a passing vehicle, and was struck by it. The driver immediately called 911 and firemen from a nearby station were on the scene within minutes. Other than a broken tibia and a few scrapes and scratches, he appeared uninjured, but the back of his head had hit the windshield, and he had needed to be put on a ventilator.

Before we got to see him, we were told that although he looked like he was okay, it was extremely likely that he was not going to make it. His mother and sisters were still several hours away, and the staff expressed concerns that they might not get there in time. It seemed like a miracle that Dante’s vitals had stabilized by the time they arrived, although he remained unconscious.

Throughout the day, upwards of 25 friends and family members came to the hospital to provide emotional support in the lounge area, and one thoughtful person went to the store and bought snacks for everyone. People from different parts of my life who had never met before were talking together and comforting each other. My family has always been close, but everyone who was there was invested in hoping and praying for Dante. It was terrible and wonderful at the same time.

While waiting for results of further testing, my daughters, my ex and I alternated between spending time with Dante, and finding out as much as we could about the accident. All we knew was what the doctors had told us — no state troopers or police ever came to the hospital with further details. Some of my friends made phone calls and determined that Dante’s car had been towed to an impound lot. The accident was being investigated by state troopers, so they weren’t going to release the car to us. His wallet had been recovered from the scene, but his phone was missing, so we still had no clue as to why he had been out driving by himself late at night. People were trying to get through to the state troopers, but no one was returning their calls. It was not until later in the day that someone was finally located who would read us the police report over the phone, which ended up raising more questions instead of supplying us with answers.

Sometime during the afternoon, my friend Ross wondered aloud if maybe Dante should be moved to a different, larger hospital. He had a friend at the University of Michigan medical center in Ann Arbor, whom he called to get some advice on the idea, while my ex called her insurance company to see if they might cover that. Family members offered to cover the expenses if they didn’t, but it seemed like another miracle when not only did The U of M accept Dante as a patient, the insurance company authorized a helicopter transport.

My Story

My name is Chris-Anthony Gonzales, and am the divorced dad of three kids, Sabrina, Dante, and Sophia. Late last August, about two weeks before Dante’s 17th birthday, the girls had gone up north with my ex-wife for Labor Day weekend, and so it was just me and Dante.

I’m a professional DJ/Emcee, and I had a gig on Friday night. After making sure that Dante had everything he needed for the evening, I left for work, and as usual, Dante and I exchanged random texts for a few hours. I smiled when I saw he had texted the image of an Eminem album cover. Dante’s musical tastes had been expanding for the last few years. He was interested in newer stuff – God’s Plan by Drake was a favorite – but he had discovered Stevie Wonder the year before, and was starting to explore different genres and eras.

I responded, but unlike usual, several hours went by with no reply. I had actually offered for him to come with me that night, but he had seemed kind of tired and said he wanted to go to bed early, so I thought that maybe he had just fallen asleep, but I texted my friend Linda, who was going to stop by my house later to give my daughter’s dog an insulin shot before joining me at my gig, to check in on him when she got there. Around midnight, Linda texted to say that she had just gotten there and Dante’s car was gone.

I had an overwhelmingly bad feeling like I’d never experienced before when I was packing up my DJ gear an hour later. I suddenly wondered if I could just leave it all there and come back for it in the morning, but I double-timed it and got back to the house as soon as I could. On the way, I called Linda, who had decided to just stay there. We were both worried, because it was not like him to just take off without notifying anyone, but we figured he must have decided to go to a friend’s house, which he had sort of talked about doing earlier in the day.

When I got home, I sat in my truck for over an hour, trying to reach him on the phone and texting him, but the calls all went to voice mail and there were no responses to my texts. After leaving him a long voice message about how I hoped he was just with friends, and to stay put for the night because it was so late, I went inside and Linda and I spent another hour coming up with reasonable explanations, then we went to bed. For some reason, I got into bed with all of my clothes on, and fell into an uneasy sleep.

The next thing I knew, Linda was pushing me on the shoulder at 4:30 saying she heard pounding at the door, and maybe Dante was back and had forgotten his key. I jumped out of bed to check, but instead of Dante at the door, it was a state trooper. He held up his cell phone with a picture of Dante’s driver’s license on it and said, “are you the father of Dante Gonzales?”

When I said yes, he told me that Dante had been in a serious car accident and was at a hospital more than thirty miles away. I yelled for Linda that Dante had been in an accident, and within one minute she was dressed and in the kitchen. “Is he alive,” she asked? The trooper responded, “Yes, but it’s critical.”

“I’ll drive,” Linda said.

This blog is comprised of my actual Facebook posts and videos from that time forward.