Former Walton soccer star’s support group hopes competitive spirit drives her through rehabilitation
by Adam Carrington
June 29, 2014 10:36 PM | 12080 views | 1 1 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Erin Holt strikes a playful pose with her support unit — boyfriend Zach Taylor and parents Ben and Lynn Holt — outside the Holt family’s Canton home. Erin, the former Walton High School and Armstrong Atlantic State University soccer star, continues to make progress from a near-fatal accident in which she was struck by a drunk driver last fall in Statesboro. 
<BR>Staff photo by Kelly J. Huff
Erin Holt strikes a playful pose with her support unit — boyfriend Zach Taylor and parents Ben and Lynn Holt — outside the Holt family’s Canton home. Erin, the former Walton High School and Armstrong Atlantic State University soccer star, continues to make progress from a near-fatal accident in which she was struck by a drunk driver last fall in Statesboro.
Staff photo by Kelly J. Huff
CANTON — When Erin Holt was struck by a drunk driver last Halloween in Statesboro, the chances of her surviving were in question.

A former soccer standout at Walton High School and Armstrong Atlantic State University, Holt was living in Savannah and working as a leasing consultant before the accident put her into a coma for six weeks. Initial reports claimed she suffered a traumatic brain injury, and her brain stem was severely damaged.

Holt’s parents, Ben and Lynn, and her older sisters, Lindsey and Ragan, immediately rushed to Savannah’s Memorial Health University Medical Center to be by her side.

Upon hearing the news, Ben Holt was quoted in one news report as saying, “I know enough about that area of the brain and didn’t expect her to live for 48 hours.”

But in the months that followed, Erin, now 24, has demonstrated that she’s both a survivor and a fighter.

Details of the accident are still under investigation, Ben Holt said.

“I don’t know all the details,” he said. “I’m supposed to meet with the Bulloch County DA, but I’ve been so busy with her recovery that I haven’t made contact.”

The Holts, who relocated to Canton after finding a more accessible house for Erin’s recovery, have experienced the ups and down during the first eight months of rehabilitation, after Erin emerged from her coma. While she has made substantial progress, she’s still relearning how to walk and talk.

When Lynn Holt was asked what the future may hold for Erin and the family, she was straightforward.

“We don’t know,” Lynn said. “We are very hopeful. We’re not expecting 100 percent, although we have faith. Seventy-five percent would be great. She’s probably like 40 percent now. We’re eight months in.”

The family launched a Facebook page — “PUSH Forward #25 Erin Holt Updates” — a week after the accident, with Lynn frequently updating Erin’s condition and progress.

PUSH stands for “Pray Until Something Happens.”

And there has been a lot happening since the accident, in regards to Erin’s improved condition since being transferred to Atlanta’s Shepherd Center prior to the Thanksgiving holidays.

At first, Erin couldn’t communicate and had paralysis on her left side. But after weeks of physical and occupational therapy, her right leg is now working at about 80-percent capacity. She’s starting to get feeling in her left leg and can move it a little, although there’s spasticity in her left arm. She’s also gotten to where she can brush her teeth and feed herself finger foods.

Erin’s cognitive skills have progressed as well. Having grown up a movie and music buff, she can recite names of songs and quote lines of some of her favorite films. She still has short-term memory loss, but seems to be find long-term memory is on par, and she also remembers her family and soccer teammates.

But Erin still needs help with other basic tasks, such as getting in and out of bed, bathing and using the restroom. She can take steps, but she still needs guidance, and while she can speak a few words, she’s still learning to speak with her full vocal capability.

“We pretty much started back over, almost like you would an infant,” Ben Holt said. “It take up to five years, sometimes more, but you don’t really know. Once a (brain) neuron dies, it doesn’t return. But a damaged neuron can grow pathways around the damaged area and other parts of the brain can take over. With her injury being in the stem area, there’s a bit of a road block.”

Recently, Erin has become aware of her condition, which is both good and bad news for the family. In a recent update the Facebook page, Lynn said Erin started to cry one morning and asked, “What’s wrong with me?” When Lynn explained, Erin responded by saying, “I want to get better.”

There have also been moments where Erin looked at herself in the mirror and noticed something different.

“She doesn’t always like what she sees,” Lynn said. “She keeps saying she wants to run. She keeps saying she wants to play soccer. And she wants to get better and says it’s taking too long to get better. Those are the things going on with her being more aware of her condition.”

The Holts have gotten an outpouring of support from community fundraisers to help with medical expenses.

Recently, Erin signed a one-day contract to be an honorary 12th starter for the Atlanta Silverbacks women’s team in their June 21 home finale against the Charlotte Lady Eagles, in front of more than 1,000 fans. Erin was escorted onto the field by Atlanta’s Morgan Mitchell, a former Armstrong teammate.

Fifty percent of the ticket proceeds from that game went toward Erin’s rehabilitation expenses.

Additionally, the soccer programs at Walton held a fundraiser that raised $10,000 for the Holts through concessions, tickets and donations from the teams’ April 12 games with Lassiter.

From all the support Erin has received, personally and monetarily, arguably none has been more supportive to Erin than her boyfriend of two years, Zach Taylor.

Both were athletes at Armstrong Atlantic, and they started out as good friends before they began dating.

Taylor, a Statesboro native, played baseball at Armstrong and was drafted in the 12th round by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012. After two years of playing in the Phillies’ organization, Taylor chose to put baseball aside and dedicate his time to Erin.

He was recently released from his contract by the Phillies.

“I’m OK with it,” Taylor said. “I knew it was going to happen when I didn’t go back. I had my good runs and good times, but eventually, you have to hang it up, regardless. When things like (Erin’s accident) happen, you have to work your way through what is important.”

Taylor said his relationship with Erin has only gotten stronger since she was hospitalized.

When they’re not sitting on the couch watching movies or World Cup soccer, they still go on dates. Recently, Taylor has taken Erin shopping, buying her a new dress, and they’ve gone to the movies.

The two also enjoyed cooking together at home before that accident, and that will likely continue.

“At first, I didn’t know what to do,” Taylor said of his immediate reaction to Erin’s accident. “What I did was seek God for guidance and found him, so that’s what’s been carrying me through this up until now. Without him, I don’t have any guidance, strength or know-how.

“I try to take on the little roles, like help with therapy when I can. The biggest thing is, I try to keep her spirit up by being there. If there isn’t anything else, I can at least do that.”
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July 01, 2014
Thank you for this update, Mr. Carrington. There are many, many of us following Erin and her progress. We admire her family and Zach is many ways. The love and devotion to Erin and her recovery are unsurpassed. Prayers for continued healing and positive progress.
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