John Graziano leaves hospital two years after Nick Hogan car crash
By Christopher Rocchio, 09/10/2009
John Graziano has taken another step on his road to recovery.
The 24-year-old Iraq war veteran -- who was critically injured during an August 2007 car crash in a vehicle driven by former Hogan Knows Best star Nick Bollea -- has been sent home after spending the last two years at Tampa's James A. Haley VA Medical Center, The St. Petersburg Timesreported Thursday.
"Thank god that this day did happen -- against what everybody thought," Graziano's mother Debra told The Times.
"Right now he's high-end, minimally conscious and moving towards emerging, so with a lot more rehabilitation and all the new things that are coming out and that are available, we'll just see how far he goes."
Graziano left the medical center strapped into a wheelchair in the back of a minivan surrounded by Debra, his brother Michael, his sister Christin Carson and her husband Richard, according to The Times. He will now live in his mother's Pinellas County home, where he'll continue to receive 24-hour care.
"It didn't really sink in yet," Michael told The Times in a Wednesday interview. "It may take a while to realize every day when I wake up he's there. He's not in Tampa."
Michael added that his brother's breathing has improved recently, but he will still require outpatient therapy a couple times a week.
"A lot of people think brain trauma is like a soap opera. Like, just one day he wakes up," he told The Times. "He's pretty much at step one. There are a lot of baby steps from here."
Bollea -- the son of wrestler Terry "Hulk Hogan" Bollea -- was illegally racing his father's 1998 Toyota Supra on a public street in August 2007 when he lost control and hit a raised median, spinning the vehicle and causing its rear end to strike a palm tree.
Graziano was first taken to St. Petersburg's Bayfront Medical Center, where he spent several weeks in critical condition in a medically-induced coma.
Registered nurse Joanne Jones subsequently filed a report that claimed Graziano broke his skull at the base, had part of his skull cut out, experienced brain swelling, suffered cuts to his scalp, and also had abnormal collections of blood under the front side of his skull. In addition, she said he would likely have to spend the rest of his life in a nursing home.
Following a more than two month investigation by police, Bollea was arrested on charges of reckless driving involving serious bodily injury; using a motor vehicle in commission of a felony; being a driver under 21 operating a vehicle with a breath-alcohol level of 0.02% or higher; and having illegal window tinting.
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He was sentenced in May 2008 to eight months in jail after he pleaded no contest to reckless driving. He also received five years of probation and surrendered his driving privileges for three years.
After beginning his sentence in solitary confinement, Bollea was transferred into a cell he shared with three other juvenile offenders. On his 18th birthday in July 2008, Bollea was transferred a second time into the prison's general population.
He was released from Pinellas County Jail last October after serving 166 days of the eight-month sentence.
Graziano's attorneys filed a civil lawsuit last year, seeking millions of dollars to pay for the former U.S. Marine's medical expenses. In addition to Bollea, his father and mother were also named in the suit, as was Daniel Jacobs -- who Clearwater police allege was racing Bollea before the crash.
Despite Graziano being surrounded by a majority of his family members, his father Edward Graziano was noticeably absent -- as he remains in Pinellas County Jail awaiting trial on charges that he tried to hire someone to kill Debra.
Undercover Pinellas County sheriff's deputies claim Edward wanted his estranged wife to die in a staged car accident, according to The Times.
While he's behind bars, Edward is apparently worried about the level of care his son will be able to receive living at home.
"He questions how his wife on her own will be able to manage the level of care that he believes John will require,"attorney John Trevena told The Times. "Despite her best efforts, she's one person. How is she going to be able to cope and manage with the full-time care that he requires?"