Mike Weaver was driving to a coaches meeting on a cold, rainy November evening, then everything went black.
The Olentangy Berlin High School baseball coach was knocked out by a deer that was propelled through his windshield by a car headed in the opposite direction. There was no warning, and he still has no memory of it.
Weaver survived without physical scar, but he suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI), which sapped his energy and some of his memory. The experience of Nov. 18 also changed his outlook on life.
"It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving and we had a coaches meeting at 6:30 (p.m.) at the high school," Weaver said. "I know it was rainy and dark that night, and that's the last thing I remember.
"The next thing I know, (emergency medical technicians) are talking to my wife, Jen, outside the ambulance when they were getting ready to take me to Grant (Medical Center in Columbus) from Grady (Memorial Hospital in Delaware). They were telling her she could follow behind. That's the first thing I remember after the accident."
Weaver could only piece together what happened from first-responders who arrived at the scene. He said the deer was hit by another motorist and thrown through his windshield, tearing the roof off his car and exiting through the back of the vehicle.
"The (first-responders) said either the underside of the deer or the rear of it hit me in the head," Weaver said. "That knocked me out and I went off the road and hit some trees.
"When (the emergency squad) got there, they expected the worst because there was blood everywhere. But the closer they got to me, they realized that it was deer blood. I guess the deer was torn to shreds as it came through the car. When they got to me, I was covered with deer blood and guts. They said I was alert but not making any sense."
Jen Weaver said things seemed OK when she reached Grady. Mike greeted her as she walked into the room, but then she realized things weren't as they seemed.
"Mike was in a neck brace, and he knew my name but couldn't remember our kids' names," said Jen, referring to 8-year-old daughter Harper and 6-year-old son Brett. "He also thought that he had been playing golf and was talking about his scorecard. He wanted me to make sure I got his golf clubs from where he left them."
Weaver was transported to Grant, where doctors said he had a concussion but they could not give him a complete diagnosis because of swelling in his face and nose. The next day, they told him he had TBI and some bleeding on the brain, but surgery was not necessary.
"It wasn't massive enough to have surgery and would heal over time like a cut on your hand," Weaver said. "There was a lot of pain with headaches, fatigue and loss of memory. I still struggle with finding the right words (in conversations).
"I struggled with things because I couldn't remember it happening, but I would have moments of fatigue and the headaches would set in. Those were reminders."
The day following the accident, Weaver remembered the names of his children and his parents. Slowly, things started to fall back into place.
He returned to work part time in his position as a marketing teacher at Berlin. He would tire by midday and need to leave to recharge with a nap.
"When you have an injury like that, you don't know how it will go," athletics director John Betz said. "Mike's driven and wanted to come back quickly. Those kinds of injuries take time and it was awesome to see the culture he had put in place to help in that situation."
Pitching coach Matt Kamalsky took over offseason workouts for the first-year baseball program while Weaver was on the mend. Kamalsky also helped Weaver's family with everyday life.
"Matt got some players, came over to put up our outdoor Christmas lights, and he would have the players come over and shovel our driveway and sidewalk," said Jen Weaver, who is an intervention specialist at Berlin. "And the community and everyone at Berlin, they were so helpful. The day after the accident we had bagels delivered to our front porch. Later, we had neighbors check on Mike when I had to be away. It was amazing to find the support we received from everyone."
Weaver gradually returned to work full time and helped the baseball team prepare for its inaugural season. After losing their first three games, the Bears were 6-7 overall and 2-2 in the OCC-Cardinal Division after falling to Hilliard Bradley 9-2 on April 15.
"Obviously, Mike was injured and needed a rest, but the program had to move forward while he was healing. So I took steps to make sure they kept heading in the same direction," Kamalsky said. "It was a steep learning curve for all of us. We were together as a staff for the first time and it was the first time these kids would be playing varsity baseball. We didn't have a completed varsity baseball field until right before the season started. Through all of it, things are headed in the right direction."
On April 26, the Bears will play host to Thomas Worthington on First-Responders Day, which will recognize area police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians.
"I have always wanted to have one, but now it's even more important because I realize just what they do for everyone in our community," Weaver said. "You find out just what great people they are and I have a great appreciation for what they do selflessly for us on a daily basis. It's a way to say thank you, but it's also a small reminder of just how thankful we are as family."
Before the accident, Weaver had a strong competitive edge and detested losing. Although still driven, that desire has tempered after realizing just how close he was to losing everything.
"I honestly feel like that I used to be a competitive person -- and I still don't like to lose -- but I feel like this has given me an even bigger sense of taking things day by day," he said. "I'm still energetic and boisterous with our guys, and I want them to improve and succeed. But at the same time, it put things in perspective. It made me realize how lucky I was to be alive and watch my kids grow up and spend time with my wife.
"I love coming to work every day and working with these (players) and their families. They were so welcoming when I came back. I just feel lucky."
Girls lacrosse team wins two in a row
The girls lacrosse team was 4-5 overall and 0-3 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Hilliard Darby on April 16.
The Bears won a pair of games in the Hannigan-Galipault Tournament on April 13 at Thomas. Andi Henry scored five times, Libby Cuckler had three goals and Jenna Brennan and Izzy Conrad both scored twice in a 14-6 win over Chillicothe. Bri Hibbits had 10 saves.
Cuckler and Henry both scored three goals and Hibbits had 14 saves in an 11-7 win over Hudson Western Reserve.
Boys lacrosse team looking for first win
The boys lacrosse team was 0-11 overall and 0-4 in the OCC-Cardinal after losing to Darby 13-9 on April 15.
Jack Nebraska had six goals and Sam Warner had 19 saves in a 14-8 league loss to Dublin Scioto on April 11.
Berlin also lost league games to Dublin Jerome 16-2 on April 4 and Worthington Kilbourne 15-0 on April 9.