A young man, beaten and left to die in a pool of blood on a Bellevue street, is going home today.
“Any lightheadedness or dizziness?” a physical therapist asks as she walks into J.D. Aylward’s hospital room at Harborview Medical Center.
One month ago, Aylward was in coma, with cuts and bruises all over his body, a broken eye socket and his head pounded so severely he had to have a piece of his skull removed because of a swollen brain.
It didn’t look like he’d survive.
His doctors are amazed at how well J.D. is doing. Because he was healthy and strong before the brutal attack, he is recovering faster than most people would in his condition.
He’s walking, occasionally throwing a football around with his friends, and this afternoon, he’s going home.
“I worry a lot about taking him home,” says Colleen Aylward. “I’m his mother. I’m not his nurse.”
Colleen has been by her 24-year old son’s side every minute for the past month.
When she first saw her son, her heart sank – he couldn’t breathe on his own, couldn’t move, couldn’t talk. Today, she’s more optimistic.
“Doctors are telling me that the prognosis is good relative to other patients,” she says. “They say it’s amazing that in one month he’s come so far from such a horrible brain injury. They also caution me that we may never get 100 percent of J.D. back. We may get 90 percent.”
Meanwhile, J.D. is trying to understand what happened to him.
“His memory is sketchy, but he knows why he’s here finally,” Colleen says. “He knows he doesn’t have half his skull. He keeps asking when it’s going to be put on and when he’ll get back to normal.”
His skull likely won’t be reattached until December. The former Sammamish High School and Boise State athlete has traded his football helmet for a special helmet that protects his brain.
When I saw him in the hospital, he had a positive attitude. His mother says he hasn’t been depressed because he has so many friends supporting him. J.D. is thankful to all those who are praying for him.
He also wants to know who did this to him.
“He starts talking about it, asking questions. What happened to me? Who did this to me? He’s starting to remember little things,” Colleen says. “The detectives don’t want us to talk to him because you don’t want to put a suggestion in his mind. With a brain injury, that could be a suggestion that he holds as truth.”
Bellevue police are waiting to talk with J.D. until he has consistent memories for three days in a row.
Detectives are also trying to retrace Alyward’s steps on Saturday, September 22nd and early on the morning of the 23rd.
J.D. was at the Munch Bar, a club outside Bellevue Square.
His friends left before he did, but he continued texting and calling them until 2:20 a.m. Then, just before 4 a.m. Sunday, a taxi driver who lives in a quiet Bellevue cul de sac was coming home and saw someone lying in the road. That was J.D.’s unconscious, bleeding body.
Police have not named a suspect or suspects yet in the case, which they say is “complex.”
“They are telling us to trust them. They are interviewing lots of people. They are still waiting for those few people who haven’t come forward, they’re waiting for them to step up to the plate now and come forward because just a few pieces need to fall into place,” she says.
Colleen begs anyone who has any knowledge of who her son was with at the Munch Bar in Bellevue, or who he left with, to call detectives. She’s thinking of offering a reward for information in the case because “money talks,” she says.
For now, Colleen is more concerned about helping her son navigate staircases, getting him settled in her home, and taking him to physical therapy appointments for at least the next year.
Eventually, she thinks justice will come through for J.D.
“All these kids know each other. People have seen things and people know things but they don’t want to get their friends in trouble,” she says. “It’ll come out. It’ll come out.”
By LINDA THOMAS
J.D. wants all those who’ve been supporting him to see his progress as he tosses a football around with his friend in this video: