When a few brothers of UF’s Theta Chi Fraternity walked into Mitch Capps’ hospital room last Tuesday, they weren’t sure what to expect.
But as they entered the room inside UF Health Shands, they were pleasantly surprised to be greeted with a smile.
“Oh, hey gang,” Capps warmly said.
Nearly three weeks after falling from the fourth floor of a parking garage, Capps remains bedridden at UF Health Shands. However, his recovery has been steady, his father, Bryan Capps Sr., said. In about a month, he expects his son may be relocated to a rehab facility.
Capps Sr. said it’s “a miracle” his son survived the 60-foot fall that left him with multiple broken bones and a serious brain injury. At one point during Capps’ recovery, he had a tracheostomy, a feeding tube inserted and was placed on a ventilator.
“Everything has been removed now so he’s breathing on his own, talking on his own, complaining and talking constantly,” Capps Sr. “He won’t shut up.”
During the past few weeks, Capps’ hospital room has been frequented by family, friends and members of the community offering their love and support.
Capps Sr. said his son, a 22-year-old UF forest resources and conservation junior and member of Theta Chi Fraternity, has always been an outdoorsy and active person. So, him being confined to a hospital room for over three weeks hasn’t exactly sat well, he said.
While at first Capps wasn’t responding to anything, he gradually began responding to commands to wiggle his toes and squeeze his fingers, Capps Sr. said.
“It’s been remarkable,” Capps Sr. said.
April Zee, Capps’ friend from forestry classes, said he was asleep the first few times she visited. But as the weeks progressed, he started opening his eyes and chatting with visitors, she said.
“It’s like infinitely better than what anyone would have expected,” Zee, a 21-year-old UF forest resource and conservation junior, said.
Throughout their friendship, Zee and Capps have bonded over their shared love for music. During Zee’s recent visits, she said she played Capps’ favorite music for him, ranging from folk music to Mac Miller.
He passes the time in his hospital bed by singing along, she said.
Zee recalls Capps bringing a speaker along when they would walk to class, blaring his favorite music for everyone to hear. His carefree attitude has taught her to be more easy-going, she said.
“I just take a step back and enjoy what’s happening in front of me instead of being so stressed all the time,” she said.
Jack Abbruzzese, a 21-year-old sustainability and the built environment senior and member of the fraternity, visited Capps’ on Tuesday alongside other Theta Chi Fraternity brothers.
Abbruzzese said Capps asked what his friends’ plans were for the night and jokingly asked if he could join them.
“It was really reassuring that his personality shines through, even though he’s still recovering mentally and physically,” Abbruzzese said.
A fundraiser event called MitchFest, organized by Abbruzzese, was held at Theta Chi Fraternity Friday. The evening consisted of performances by Kamasutra (Capps’ favorite local band), art vendors, a silent disco and food and drinks.
Kamasutra asked Capps’ friends and family for his favorite songs and played covers of them throughout their performance Friday, Abbruzzese said.
Although he hasn’t totaled everything up yet, he estimates the event raised about $3,000 for Capps and his family. A portion of the proceeds came from the sale of t-shirts made with Capps’ artwork, he said.
Zee, who also joined Capps friends and family at MitchFest, thinks selling t-shirts with Capps’ artwork was a thoughtful touch to the event. She said she feels thankful for all of the support Capps has received and hopes it continues.
“I hope he continues to keep healing at the rate he is,” Zee said.” You know, so that he can get back on his feet and go back out in the woods.”
Contact Sarah Mandile at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sarahmandile.