Gwinnett family continues to heal 6 months after wreck that killed son

Drew, Matthew, Angie, Logan and Mateo Caymol during a happier time

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Drew, Matthew, Angie, Logan and Mateo Caymol during a happier time

Few people would've noticed a heart-shaped stain on the pavement, but Suwanee mom Angie Caymol saw it as a sign from her son. She saw it last week, as she left a restaurant following her family's first outing in six months.

"God-winks" are what she calls these hidden gems of encouragement that have helped sustain her family since the tragic car accident that forever changed them last December.

That was when a deer darted into traffic, resulting in a fiery accident that took the life of 11-year-old Drew Caymol.

Drew's older brother, Matthew, was found unconscious at the scene. The 13-year-old was life-flighted to Egleston Children's Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, severely bruised lungs and a bone-deep leg wound that soon became septic.

Driver and father Mateo Caymol also suffered serious injuries, including bruised lungs, a shattered right hip socket and multiple broken ribs.

Mom Angie and daughter Logan, 15, found themselves thrust into a grief-filled, surreal world of funeral planning and prayer as they divided their time between two hospitals and relied on the kindness of family, friends and even strangers for help.

"We have been the recipients of every possible act of generosity and kindness imaginable," Angie Caymol said. "It's very overwhelming and humbling. We often struggle with feeling unworthy. Our friends, family, community, children's schools, even complete strangers have done everything under the sun to help lessen our burden and to help carry some of our pain."

Recovery for Mateo Caymol has been slow, hampered by an initial surgery that failed to keep his hip joint in its socket. After a successful second surgery, doctors ordered him to do nothing but sit in a lift chair for 10 weeks to let the joint heal.

Angie Caymol said her husband tackles therapy with determination and positivity.

"Currently, he attends rehab three days a week to work on walking and spends many hours at home doing strengthening exercises, icing, stretching, and working on his own to get stronger. He is finally able to bear some weight on his right leg and take a few steps without any assistance," she said.

Matthew has also had a long road to recovery. Immediately after the accident, he spent three weeks in Egleston's pediatric intensive care unit, in a medically induced coma to allow his brain to rest.

Then he contracted C. difficile, a highly dangerous infection. He also developed a large blood clot in the intravenous line that runs up to his neck, and continues to receive painful daily injections to break it up.

"He's such a brave, strong boy. That's all I kept telling him when he was 'asleep' at Egleston. It's so true. He's proven it over and over again," Angie Caymol said.

After leaving intensive care, Matthew remained in the hospital for six weeks of inpatient rehab. Next came eight weeks of day rehab. After impressing his doctors and therapists with his progress, Matthew was allowed to return to school and attend outpatient rehab.

Matthew's summer break will include two days of rehab each week, as well as a shift back to a more normal life.

"He spends part of his day reviewing school work, part of his day doing therapies and exercises, part of his day with friends, and a lot of his day with his video games — like normal teenage boys," Angie Caymol said.

"God wrapped him in His arms and saved him from that horrible accident. The fact that he is here with us and not with his brother in Heaven leads us to believe that God has big plans for his life here on Earth," she said.

On their Facebook page, Caymol Strong, Angie Caymol keeps more than 11,000 followers updated on the family's progress. She also sees it as an opportunity to keep Drew's memory alive.

"I have asked that every picture, every memory, every funny story, every dream, be shared with me," she said. "I want to compile a book of everything about Drew. We miss him so much. It helps us to know others will always keep his memory alive and remember him also."

When asked what she's learned in the past six months that might comfort someone also enduring the tragic loss of a child, Caymol admits that she's still early in the learning process herself.

"I am certainly new to this journey, so I try to draw from others who have walked this road. It's difficult to put into words the thought of not seeing someone that you love so dearly again in this lifetime. Not hugging him, tucking him in, laughing with him, wiping his tears," she said.

"It's a pain like none other; but even throughout all of our pain, we know people have it worse. People lose their entire families or multiple children. Fortunately, for us, we have a strong Christian faith, one that was instilled in me as a child and that I have tried to help instill in my own family," she added.

The Caymol family said they feel certain that love and faith will continue to carry them to more peaceful days ahead.

"Mateo and I have two beautiful, incredibly strong and resilient children that deserve the best of us," Angie Caymol said. "We agreed from the beginning that we will show grace and will lift each other up on our bad days to get through this together. It's not always easy. We have suffered a terrible loss, but we still have so much to be thankful for. We are laughing again, but we know our laughter will always contain tears, for we will forever miss our sweet Drew."