SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) — A West Haven teen is recovering in the ICU and is lucky to be alive after breaking his neck in a snowboarding accident.
The road to recovery will be long, but Aza Topik’s family says he is a fighter. The family is overwhelmed by the community’s support and reassured by Aza’s tenacity.
Lori Buck, Aza Topik’s mother, recounted the phone call that she never imagined she’d receive. The call came from her 18-year-old son Aza; when she answered, he said, “I fell, I can’t feel my legs, get up here, get up here.” She added, “He was terrified.”
The accident happened on Sunday. Buck told ABC4 that she and her husband got in the truck and rushed from their home in Layton to Snowbasin Resort. She said the ride up the mountain was awful, adding: “I’m thinking the worst. I’m balling the whole way up. I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my God. Oh, my God. This is it.’”
Buck arrived just as paramedics were putting Aza in an ambulance. She got in and rode to the hospital with her son. “He kept asking, ‘Are my snow boots still on?’ He was very concerned about his snow boots being on or off because he couldn’t tell.”
Fast forward five days, Aza’s is still in the ICU at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden. His family told ABC4 that he has shattered his C-5 vertebrae and has undergone surgery to address that. According to his family, doctors tell them that Aza has a five to 10 percent chance of walking.
Aza’s dad, Justin Topik, said that Aza never lost consciousness after his accident. While the family has been on edge, Aza has remained strong in his will to improve and his faith. Topik emphasized this tenacity by recounting an exchange the two had: “I told him the other day, ‘It’s okay when you’re going into your surgery.’ He said, ‘Dad, I’m not scared.’ I said, ‘Aza, it’s okay to be scared. Like, it’s okay.’ He said, ‘Dad, I’m not scared.’”
Aza lives with his older brother, Jackson Topik, in West Haven. “Right now, he’s on a lot of medicine, and he’s just kind of not himself, if you would,” Jackson stated. “I just want to see him come back, and talk to him, and joke with him like we used to, and I just want to see him come home.”
Aza’s family hasn’t left his side during his time in the hospital. During which they’ve been amazed by the support of the community. “It’s overwhelming how much my son, how much my boy, is loved by so many people,” Buck stated.
That love is evident in different ways, including the vast number of visitors that come to see Aza daily.
“He has like 20 friends coming in every day to see him, and the ICU kind of kicked us out because we had so many visitors, “Kaylee Giles said. “So, it’s crazy the support he’s been getting.” Giles is Aza’s sister-in-law.
The support doesn’t end there. Aza is currently between insurance. His new policy is set to begin in January. A family member started a GoFundMe account to help Aza pay the medical bills that will be stacking up. Buck told ABC4 that people from across the country have reached out to them after seeing the GoFundMe.
“It just goes to show you, there are so many amazing people in the world,” Justin Topik said. “You don’t notice until you go through some crazy trial like this, but, man, people are so good. Someone donated $10,000 anonymously.”
Aza has made progress over the last few days. He now has feeling in his upper body. Topik told ABC4 that when nurses removed stitches from one of Aza’s arms, it hurt. Topik said while it sounds bad, the family was elated that Aza was in pain because it meant he could feel it.
According to the family, Aza is also regaining some mobility in his arms and could even sit up for 10 minutes.
The family is focused on Aza’s current condition and taking his recovery day by day. However, they also have some plans for the future.
“I can solo skydive, and Aza had promised me that next year he’s going to do it with me and get his license, and that’s just going to be our thing that we do together,” Jackson told ABC4. “He promises me he’s still going to do that. Furthermore, David — our stepdad — he’s deathly afraid of heights, will not fly in an airplane without Xanax or some kind of pain medicine to knock him out, and he actually promised that he’s going to skydive with us, so we definitely want to make sure that happens.”
“He’s always been a fighter, and I know, I just know that he’s going to kick this thing. He’s going to walk again,” Buck concluded.