Cory Holm does not quit.
It is a quality that has set the Emmett native and Treasure Valley Community College sophomore apart as an athlete and as a person for his entire life.
Corys a fighter, said Holms mother, Kari Dietz. Even if its just board games at the house he never wants to lose and hes never going to give up.
This fall, a freak baseball accident left Holm critically injured and in a hospital bed. On the night of Oct. 28, four days after the accident, every major organ system in Holms body catastrophically failed, except one:
The doctors said his heart would give out within the hour, Dietz said. They told us to say our goodbyes.
But like its owner, Holms heart refused to quit. Minutes turned into hours, and hours turned into days. Nearly two months later, Holm is still fighting toward recovery at Complex Care Hospital of Idaho in Meridian.
Holm faces a long rehabilitation, but hes never backed down from a challenge and he has the support of an entire community.
A FIERCE COMPETITOR
From an early age, Holms competitive drive helped him excel in sports. He played year-round, traveling around the Treasure Valley with his mom, stepdad Mick Dietz, father Steve Holm and stepmom Tammy Holm.
He was always in something, Kari Dietz said. He was that kid who was good and fast and annoying at every sport he played.
Holm was a three-sport athlete at Emmett High, playing football, basketball and baseball for the Huskies. He chose to pursue baseball in college and enjoyed an outstanding freshman season at TVCC in Ontario, Ore., this past spring. He led the Chukars in batting average (.370) and on-base percentage (.453) while scoring 19 runs and stealing 13 bases in 37 games.
Cory is a special kid, TVCC baseball coach Aaron Sutton said. Hes one of the most competitive people Ive coached hes harder on himself than any of his coaches. But he can really play, and hes just as good of a person off the field.
Chukars third baseman Mitch Skaggs, of Boise, first saw Holms fiery style while competing against him in high school. His appreciation only increased once the two became teammates.
Hes one of the most athletic kids youll see, but its his work ethic that sets him apart, Skaggs said.
No one works harder than Cory, and thats why hes so well-respected in our clubhouse.
A FREAK ACCIDENT
On Oct. 24, Holm and his teammates were playing the Chukar World Series, an annual intrasquad scrimmage at Elks Memorial Field in Ontario. In the bottom of the ninth inning, with two outs and Holms team leading by nine runs, a well-hit ball sailed over his head in deep centerfield.
A lot of guys would just play that ball off the wall, Sutton said. Corys competitive nature wouldnt allow him to do that.
Added teammate Chase Miller: Cory goes balls-to-the wall all the time. Thats how he plays the game and thats the type of person he is.
When the sprinting Holm dove to make the catch, his momentum carried him head-first into the outfield wall. As he lay motionless on the warning track, his teammates knew it was serious.
The sound of his head hitting that wall that was one of the scariest and most difficult things Ive ever experienced, Skaggs said.
Holm immediately lost feeling in his legs, but maintained consciousness and mobility above the waist.
He was taken to the emergency room at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario, where X-rays revealed a broken C7 vertebra. He was immediately flown to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, where doctors performed surgery to fuse vertebrae C5, C6, C7, T1 and T2, which comprise the lower neck and upper shoulder region of the spinal cord.
Its just a tragic accident, Treasure Valley Athletic Director Ed Aronson said. Ive never seen anything like it in my 40 years working and participating in athletics.
It was a difficult day for the baseball team, Chukar athletics and the entire TVCC community not to mention Holms family and friends. Unfortunately, the situation was about to become much more frightening.
Cory was still able to speak and move his arms and hands for three full days after surgery. But on the night of Oct. 28, something happened that no one can explain.
Everything just went south, Dietz said. The doctors cant understand or explain medically what happened to him, but for whatever reason, his body shut down. He had complete renal failure, complete respiratory failure and no blood pressure. Thats when we were told he wasnt going to make it. We said our goodbyes, and we were just in total shock.
But Corys heart the only working organ he had left refused to stop beating. It kept him alive long enough for his body to respond to treatment, and after three days, his condition finally stabilized.
In the days and weeks that followed, Holms family received a lot of news some scary, some encouraging.
The events of Oct. 28 left Cory unable to speak or move his arms. His kidneys which doctors worried were ruined returned to function after weeks of dialysis to flush out the toxins that had poisoned Holms body. He remains on a respirator, but is able to breathe on his own for several minutes at a time.
In early December, Cory was transferred to Complex Care, which specializes in extended patient treatment.
Recently, Cory has been able to respond to verbal cues using facial expressions. Doctors also help him sit up every day, and he is able to move his head slightly on his own.
They are small victories, but each one is a step in the right direction.
You can see the determination on his face, just to raise his head one inch, Dietz said. I just have to believe that his body is healing itself in its own way, and that there will come a day when hell have a different look in his eye, a day when hell talk and move his arms.
A lot of people walk away from C7 breaks. Nobody can explain how or why this has happened to Cory. Were just trying to get back to October 25.
Holms tragic situation has been a devastating blow to family, friends, the TVCC campus and the countless members of the Southwest Idaho region who have come to know Cory through sports. As word of his injury spread, the Treasure Valley sprang into action.
Not one day has gone by where he doesnt have visitors, Dietz said. The entire baseball team has come. The coaches come regularly. His home and away jerseys are hanging in his hospital room. People leave him notes on the whiteboard. His teammates have cried at the side of his bed. The support has been phenomenal.
Aronson spearheaded fundraising efforts, helping the family set up the Cory Holm Benefit Fund through Wells Fargo. Students and staff in the TVCC athletic department have made and sold T-shirts and beanies with Holms name and No. 24 uniform number.
On Nov. 13, TVCC hosted a Buzz-Cut-A-Palooza, where community members raised money by shaving their heads. The event raised more than $5,000.
Were very appreciative of the support TVCC and the local community have shown for Cory and our program, Sutton said. Corys family and the strength theyve shown cant be put into words. They truly are an inspiration to everyone.
Local businesses also joined in. In Emmett, posters around town encourage community members to donate to Corys fund, and each school in the Emmett district has a Coins for Cory collection jar that gets emptied at Wells Fargo each week.
A local State Farm Insurance branch is donating $21 to Corys fund every time someone comes in to get a quote. And on Nov. 29, every Pizza Hut store in Idaho, plus one in Ontario, donated 20 percent of sales to Corys fund.
People were sending us photos there was a two-hour wait and a line going out the door at Pizza Hut, Dietz said. People send cards with checks to the hospital and the school. Weve seen everything from $5 to $500. Everybody just wants to do something for him.
The support for Cory and his family which includes Kari and Mick Dietz, Steve and Tammy Holm and Corys seven siblings and stepsiblings goes beyond money. Dietzs coworkers at Blue Cross set up a dinner schedule and have taken food to the hospital every single night since Oct. 25. Friends, teammates, co-workers and even strangers have pitched in by shopping, doing laundry, raking leaves and taking care of other household chores.
Its tough for his family, they pretty much live at the hospital, Skaggs said. We just try to support them as much as we can, however we can.
A TEAM IN HEALING
While the baseball team has played a big role in supporting its injured teammate, Holms absence certainly will be felt when the Chukars begin the 2013 season this spring. Without his skill on the field and personality in the clubhouse, the team is left with a huge void to fill.
Cory is pretty much the heart of our team, said Miller, who likely will move from right to centerfield in Holms absence. Hes always singing and dancing around the dugout, always in a good mood. He just loves to be on the field.
Sutton struggled initially to find words that would comfort his players. But as time goes by, he sees Holm making an impact on his teammates, even from a hospital bed 50 miles away.
We all love Cory, and he loves this program, Sutton said. Its been very inspirational to see his progress and how much its meant to this team.
Opening Day is sure to carry extra emotions when the Chukars begin their season March 8 at Elks Memorial Field.
Its going to be tough to look out toward centerfield and not think about Cory, Skaggs said. If we can get him out of that hospital bed and out to the field, it will be a big spark for our ball club. But even if he cant be there, I know hed want us to go on and continue playing the game we all love.
Whether Holm makes it to a game this year or not, his teammates still consider him an important part of the team, and always will.
Cory is a brother, Miller said. Hes part of our family, and hes always going to be a part of this team.
If he cant come to games, well bring the tapes to him. We all love him and miss him, and were keeping him in our prayers, in our minds, and in our hearts.
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
With family by his side and hundreds of supporters in his corner, Holm now faces a long and uncertain path to recovery. Many people who have sustained similar neck injuries have been able to walk again, but Holms unexplainable, life-threatening setback Oct. 28 makes it difficult for doctors to forecast his recovery.
You hope in your heart for him to walk again, Dietz said. It doesnt seem fair that so much can happen to one kid. Right now, we just want Cory to be Cory again and do what it takes to get better.
Holms rehab has come in baby steps, but there is definite improvement. Doctors are slowly weaning him off a respirator, and hes been more alert and quick to respond in recent weeks.
Miller, who visits his friend every week, sees the progress. Hes getting better, he said. Hes getting stronger, and I know hell pull through.
Holms family received welcome news just before Christmas, when Cory was accepted as a patient at Craig Hospital in Denver, one of the nations top medical centers for spinal cord traumatic injury rehab.
Cory and his mom will travel to Denver on Jan. 7 and Dietz will live in the hospitals on-site housing for the duration of Corys two-to-six-month stay.
As Holms condition improves, his family and doctors will continue helping him regain the use of his body. In the weeks ahead, the competitive spirit that defined Holm on the baseball field surely will aid him in his healing and rehabilitation.
Hes determined to be good at everything he does this will be no different, Dietz said. Even now, I see him working hard every day.
Hell never give up.
HOW TO HELP
If you would like to help Cory Holm and his family, you can donate to the Cory Holm Benefit Fund by visiting any Wells Fargo bank location in the Treasure Valley.
If you would like to help organize a fundraising event, please contact Treasure Valley Community College Athletic Director Ed Aronson at (541) 881-5875.