Victim of West Oakland crash still struggling to recover from injuries four years later

Greg Lowrie is a fighter.

After spending several months in a coma following a nearly fatal bicycle crash, the Berkeley native is starting to regain his strength. He is now walking with a walker, is taking classes at Laney College, and is preparing for more surgeries, including one to repair a congenital heart defect.

“Mentally, I’m good. And I’m losing weight. It’s just a few pounds but it’s still something,” Lowrie said.

Lowrie, 29, was born with only two heart valves and has had three open-heart surgeries, the latest when he was 18. He suffered a stroke when he was 10. A few years ago, he and his mother, Maggie Lowrie, a former lawyer who was disbarred, wound up homeless and living in West Oakland after she lost her home of 24 years on Channing Way in Berkeley.

Then, in January 2015, while biking to a West Oakland health clinic, Lowrie was hit by a pick-up truck at Eighth and Union streets and nearly died from his injuries. To make things worse, he was pickpocketed as he lay unconscious. Police said Lowrie might have driven into the intersection against a red light.

Lowrie was rushed to Highland Hospital, suffering from severe head trauma, a cervical spine fracture, his spleen was bleeding, and his pelvis was fractured. A tracheotomy tube helped him breathe, and he had a feeding tube in his stomach.

According to doctors, he had little hope of surviving. He scored a 3 on the Glasgow Coma Scale, used to measure a person’s level of consciousness. “To put that in perspective, it’s as low as you can get,” said Gregory Victorino, the hospital’s chief of trauma services. “It’s like a rock. A rock would have a GCS of 3.”

Greg Lowrie, 25, of West Oakland, lies in bed as he recovers at Highland Hospital in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, March 20, 2015. Greg was hit by a truck in West Oakland on January 13. The impact threw him about 30 feet, and as the 81-year-old driver from Alameda went to check on him, a group of people went through each man’s pockets and took their wallets. Maggie Lowrie stated that her son suffered from head trauma, a broken pelvis, and damage to his kidney and spleen, which was crushed. Three weeks ago Greg woke up from a coma and yesterday spoke for the very first time. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

Lowrie spent several months in a coma at Highland Hospital, his recovery complicated by his heart condition. After miraculously waking in March 2015, he was transferred to Fairmont Hospital’s rehabilitation center in San Leandro for several months.

His mother bicycled and took BART from the homeless encampment in West Oakland to visit him nearly every day. He gradually made improvement and was soon ready for surgeries, including removal of his spleen at Castro Valley Medical Center.

It hasn’t been easy for either of them.

“I didn’t think I was this strong,” Maggie Lowrie said at the time. “I’ve put my depression in the back seat.”

Lowrie spent nearly a year recovering at the Valley Pointe Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Castro Valley. He’s struggled with depression, spending his days watching TV and playing video games, but now that he’s able to walk at least a mile a day. The exercise has helped lift his spirits.

“I was very depressed and suicidal. I wouldn’t say I’ve gotten happier, but I’ve adjusted to this life,” Lowrie said.

Maggie Lowrie visits her son Greg Lowrie in the intensive care unit at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, Calif., on Monday, April 27, 2015. Lowrie, 25, was admitted on April 24 for surgery and is recovering from being hit by a truck while riding his bicycle on Jan. 13 in West Oakland. He was in a coma for over a month at Highland Hospital and was transferred to Fairmont Hospital’s rehabilitation center in San Leandro afterward. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) 

Things are finally looking up for Lowrie and his mother, who now lives in Section 8 housing in East Oakland. Lowrie has spent years recovering, undergoing multiple surgeries including two on his left foot, and is now able to walk a good distance with a walker after physical therapy.

“Water therapy was the best, now I can just stand up and balance without holding on to anything,” Lowrie said.

Yet his struggle continues as he awaits both heart and hip surgery, and his insurance company stopped paying for physical therapy in May.

Despite his medical issues, Lowrie has been trying to live a normal life and has been taking classes at Laney College in Oakland. He loves to cook and dreams of being a chef. He even studied journalism for a semester. His mother has been his tireless advocate throughout his recovery.

“It’s been remarkable,” Maggie Lowrie said, “I just wish he could recover as fast as he wants to.”

Staff writer David DeBolt contributed to this report.

To donate to Greg Lowrie’s Facebook fundraiser, click here.

Source: mercurynews
Victim of West Oakland crash still struggling to recover from injuries four years later