FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Nine days ago Austin Leintz and his friends posed for a picture on the beach in San Pedro, Belize.
The group was on vacation from Colorado and just beginning what they hoped would be a memorable, fun-filled vacation.
Little did 19-year-old Austin know that it would be memorable for a much different reason.
In fact, just minutes after that picture was taken, Austin would suffer a severe head injury when he fell from a golf cart.
His father, Kirk, remembers getting a phone call at home in Colorado from one of Austin’s friends.
“There’s been an accident,” Kirk remembers the friend saying. “Austin’s been hurt. He’s bleeding from his ears.”
Austin suffered a fractured skull, brain bleeding and swelling along with numerous cuts, scrapes and bruises.
Kirk, more than 2,500 miles away in Colorado, feared the worst.
“My heart sunk,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if he was dying.”
Kirk said a team of do-gooders stepped in and rushed to save his son.
Kirk says Austin was airlifted to a hospital in Belize City but another friend called, worried that Austin wasn’t getting proper care.
“He called me and said, ‘Mr. Leintz they’re not doing anything for Austin. He’s still bleeding from his ears and he’s pushed up against this wall,’” Kirk remembers.
Kirk worked the phones, contacted the US Embassy and after hours, had Austin taken to another facility where a doctor realized that Austin needed emergency surgery.
“When they took the piece of skull out of his head his brain should be pulsing with your pulse and it wasn’t,” Kirk said. “He had to do the full blown surgery.”
Kirk said the doctor drained the blood on Austin’s brain, the brain responded, the doctor put the skull back and stitched Austin up. Kirk said that surgery saved his son’s life.
“If he hadn’t had that surgery, he’d be dead,” Kirk said.
Air rescuers then flew Austin from Belize to Fort Lauderdale to get him treated at Broward Health Medical Center.
Kirk said it was a unique flight onboard a small jet with permits to fly across international waters and airspace of multiple countries, flying at high speed at low altitude.
Austin arrived at Broward Health several days ago in a medically induced coma, hooked up to IV’s with his dad racing to meet him in Fort Lauderdale.
Just days after coming out of his medically induced coma, Austin is walking and talking, even though he has little recollection of what he went through.
“I guess I hit the road and I don’t even know what happened,” Austin said.
Kirk surmises from what he’s learned that Austin may have flown out of the golf cart when they made a sharp turn or hit a bump in the road.
No matter what happened, Kirk said doctors have assured him that Austin is making remarkable, even miraculous progress.
“It’s a miracle he’s as good a shape as he is,” he said.
Even Austin knows that this story could have had a much different outcome.
“I was supposed to die,” Austin said.
But he’s now ready to get back to his life of snowboarding in Colorado with his friends, and his family has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for medical expenses.
His father is grateful to first responders in Broward and in Belize who rescued his son and kept him alive.
“I’m just thankful those folks were there,” he said. “God had a hand in it, that’s for sure.”
Austin hopes to leave the hospital in Fort Lauderdale in the coming days. His dad says his son will be taken to a rehab center in Colorado where he faces months of recovery.