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Bemidji man recovering from broken neck after car accident last week

BEMIDJI - Kevin Graves sleeps while his family waits - waits for him to wake up, waits to see if he will be able to move his legs.

Graves, 31, of Bemidji, broke his neck in two places in a car accident last week. He underwent surgery to repair the break and insert a metal plate.

Graves was on his way to work at 7 Clans Casino in Red Lake just before 7 a.m. Jan. 5 when the Chevrolet Cavalier he was driving collided with a horse on the roadway on Irvine Avenue North.

Occupants of a vehicle following Graves stopped to help him.

Graves' wife, Monica, said it was very cold that morning, well below zero, and the four women in the vehicle, teachers in Mahnomen, stopped and kept Graves warm and still.

"We are so thankful for that," she said.

Graves was alert enough following the accident to provide to the women Monica's name and phone number.

Graves was flown to Hennepin County Medical Center immediately following the accident and was taken in for surgery the next day.

He has been heavily sedated and hasn't yet woken up, she said.

Graves is now on a ventilator, but is expected to get a tracheotomy - a procedure in which the neck is cut and a direct airway is opened through the incision - this week, she said.

Graves has to wait for the trach surgery because the surgery that was done to repair his neck was done on the same area, and the first incision has to heal before another incision can be made for the trach, Monica explained.

With the breathing tube now in his mouth and throat, Graves keeps biting on it and pushing it out, she said.

"He's very strong," she said. "Everyone keeps saying how strong he is."

Once the trach is in place, Monica said, it will be easier for Kevin to breathe - and, ultimately, easier for him to eventually wake up.

Graves has moved his arms and upper body, she said, but he still has not moved his legs.

No one yet knows if that is because of injuries he suffered or if it is because he is still sleeping.

Monica and Graves' mother, Helma, are in the Twin Cities with Graves. They're staying in short-term apartments near HCMC.

Monica and Graves just married on Halloween, Oct. 31. Their 2-year-old son, Mason, is staying in Bemidji with family.

"We're coping OK," Monica said.

Graves' journey is being documented online on his CaringBridge Web site,