Houston man victim of hit-and-run crash

April 23, 2014
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From left, Aaron Davis and his sister, Jennifer Davis, pose with their father, Vertresse (Vernie) Davis, in this photo from 2011. Vernie Davis was severely injured when he was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle in Florida last month.
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Vertresse “Vernie” Davis, 61, of Houston, was the victim of a hit-and-run accident in Orlando, Fla., last month. His family hopes to transfer him to a long-term care facility in Pennsylvania.

Vertresse “Vernie” Davis loved taking his motorcycle for a spin, and the Pennsylvania seasons were no deterrent to his year-round rides. But March 10, while vacationing in Orlando ,Fla., he took a ride that dramatically altered his life.

The motorcycle driven by Davis, 61, of Houston, was struck by a car that day and he suffered a traumatic brain injury. The driver of the vehicle did not stop, and police have not yet found the hit-and-run suspect.

Alicia McClain, one of Davis’ daughters, said her father was riding his motorcycle early that morning, driving in the right lane when a vehicle in the left lane merged in front of him and clipped his bike.

One witness saw the accident and described the vehicle to police, but could not identify the license plate number.

Davis was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where he remains in intensive care. He is unable to move his left side or communicate verbally, but he responds to touch and sound by opening his eyes. He has both a feeding tube and tracheostomy.

While his condition is improving every day, “he’s still got a little bit of road to go,” McClain said.

Daughter Jennifer Davis said in an online update to friends and family that her father was “fairly active” last week. She wrote that he sat up on his own for 13 seconds and squeezed a nurse’s hand on command. Most incredibly, Davis was able to flinch his left leg.

“If any of you recall, the part of the brain that was injured controls the left side, and it has been unclear if he would ever have use of that side again,” Jennifer Davis wrote. “But today we were given hope. I can’t express how proud I am of my dad and his progress.”

Several days before writing that online post, she wrote her father was moving around more and opening his eyes.

“He moves his right arm and leg, opens his eyes a lot (and) makes the Vern ‘stank’ face that we all know and love,” she wrote. “I couldn’t help but tear up when I saw him smile a couple times when he was sleeping, and squeeze when I held his hand.”

Davis, a father of three and grandfather of three, retired from his state Department of Transportation job after 30 years. Those who know him call him “Mr. PennDOT” and are accustomed to hearing his “scooter,” as he called his bike, from a mile away.

Jennifer Davis described her father as “an outgoing man, with a large heart for all,” especially his family.

“Most remember him for his huge smile and the ever-so-famous line, ‘Hey you, get a job!’” Jennifer Davis said. “No matter where you would go, you knew that if you would run into him it would be nothing but smiles and laughter.”

Davis’ children are taking turns visiting him in Florida, but his status as a “stable” patient means his treatment in the hospital is limited. He needs to be transferred to a skilled nursing facility for 24-hour assistance, but his insurance will not cover the long-term care.

The Davis family is hoping to raise $10,000 to help offset health-care costs. A family friend started a fundraising page under the name Vernie Davis on YouCaring.com. They have raised $1,545 to date, and they also plan to host a spaghetti dinner and poker run in upcoming months.

“We believe there is hope for him to come around,” McClain said. “Hopefully, the long-term care facility may bring him out of the state he’s in.”

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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