If 17-year-old Tyler Dufrene could be anywhere right now, he’d be outside hunting or fishing, his mother Angela Sampey said.
“He loves to bass fish. Every time we go to Wal-Mart, he has to go look for spinning bait. He loves to duck hunt, and he builds a blind every year and shoots more of them than he’s supposed to,” the Gheens resident said.
Tyler had made plans to go on a trip to hunt frogs with a friend this weekend. But instead of doing what he loves, he’s teetering between life and death at University Hospital in New Orleans. He was in a crash with a suspected drunk driver Wednesday night, just hours after he attended his Central Lafourche High School graduation ceremony.
Tyler was pronounced brain dead at 2:22 p.m. Thursday and put on life support to preserve his organs for donation. But on Friday morning when doctors touched his hand they saw it move.
“He was an organ donor, so we were following his wishes and leaving him on life support. But when he moved his finger the doctors decided to run some tests on him to see if he’s having some brain activity or if it was just reflexes,” Sampey said. “I’m trying to keep strong. I don’t want him to be a vegetable. I want my whole son.”
Tyler’s aunt and godmother, Bonnie Dominique, of Gheens, is trying to be optimistic.
“God can perform miracles, and that’s what we’re hoping for. They’re telling us that it might just have been a spinal reflex. But I’m not giving up on him,” she said.
Tyler was driving south on La. 1 just north of the Valentine Bridge in a 1997 Jeep Cherokee about 11 p.m. Wednesday and was struck head on by a 2005 Chevy Silverado, according to State Police Troop C spokesman Evan Harrell.
Michael Costello, 20, of Golden Meadow, was traveling north in the Silverado and swerved across the centerline before striking Dufrene, troopers said.
Police said they suspect alcohol use by Costello was a factor. Costello was taken to Ochsner-St. Anne Hospital in Raceland with what police described as minor injuries.
Costello was booked Wednesday into the Lafourche Parish jail on charges of first-degree vehicular negligent injury, operating a vehicle while intoxicated and failure to drive on the correct side of the road, authorities said. He was released Thursday on bonds totaling $36,050.
Blood tests for alcohol and drugs, required in all fatal crashes, are pending, police said.
Although Tyler’s condition appears to be bleak, the family is holding out hope that he’ll be able to fulfill the plans he made for after graduation.
“When he turned 18 on July 13 this year, he was going to get a tattoo that said “Gheens Grown,” Sampey said.
He also had plans to join the Marines in August, Dominique said.
Sampey said she will always remember the last words she spoke to her son, mere hours after he walked across the stage to receive his high school diploma.
“The last time I talked to him, I told him I loved him and he said ‘I love you too, Mom,’ ” Sampey said through tears.