One year later, NOLA native Tim Siegel continues to cope after son’s accident
A year ago Thursday at 2 p.m., Tim Siegel received the call no parent ever wants to get.
“Luke has been in an accident,” said the voice on the other end.
Siegel’s youngest child, 9-year-old Luke, had been seriously injured in a golf cart accident in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas. He had suffered head trauma and skull fractures.
“Every time the clock hits 2,” Tim Siegel writes, “I feel a sharp pain in my stomach.”
One year later, Luke continues to make slow progress in his rehabilitation from the life-threatening injuries, and his family is fighting the battle with him.
“There’s nothing more gut-wrenching than seeing your son who cannot communicate with you,” Tim Siegel told KCBD in Lubbock earlier this week. “And most of the communication (is) just sounds of either discomfort, agitation, or just trying to talk.”
Tim Siegel was born in New York but grew up in New Orleans. He was arguably the best junior tennis player the Crescent City has produced in the last half-century, winning a pair of national age-group titles and, as a 16-year-old, earning a wild card into a professional event played at Municipal Auditorium in March 1980.
Siegel led Archbishop Rummel to four district and three state championships in his career before signing with the University of Arkansas, where he was a three-time Southwest Conference champion and a two-time All-American.
Siegel toured professionally primarily as a doubles player after his college career ended, but he eventually turned to college coaching, first at Arkansas and SMU before landing at Texas Tech, where he would serve as head coach for 23 seasons.
Siegel’s teams won 330 matches and the Red Raiders reached the NCAA championship 12 times in his career. In 2015, Tech had a No. 19 national team ranking, a second consecutive NCAA berth and a 19-9 dual meet record, as well has having a doubles team in the NCAA final for the second time in four years.
On July 9, 2015, Siegel announced his retirement from Texas Tech to become tennis coach for the Lubbock Independent School District.
“This decision,” Siegel said, “will allow me to spend more time with my family.”
The irony of that decision would present itself less than three weeks later.
Luke Siegel spent 44 days at University Medical Center in Lubbock before being transferred to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, where he spent another four months before returning home on Jan. 6. He has gone through speech, occupational and physical therapy.
While some would want to keep their family matters to themselves, Tim Siegel and his wife Jenny have chosen to keep their many friends and supporters updated on Luke’s health through their Facebook page “Pray for Luke Siegel”, which has more than 27,000 followers.
If the number of followers weren’t enough of an indication, the level of support and well wishes they have received has been remarkable, from friends, Lubbock residents and his favorite teams.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees sent a video that Tim estimates he has played for Luke “a thousand times.” Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus visited Luke in the hospital and brought him a game jersey.
His other favorite teams – those at Texas Tech – have been supportive as well. Football coach Kliff Kingsbury has visited and offered his support to fund-raisers, and former Red Raider wide receiver Jace Amaro, now with the New York Jets, was a frequent visitor during the offseason.
The Tuesday before Texas Tech’s baseball team left for the College World Series in Omaha last month, Luke visited the Red Raiders’ practice. The entire team posed with Luke wearing their red-and-black “Pray for Luke” t-shirts.
Financially, friends started raising money within days of the accident. For instance, a GoFundMe page with an original goal of $10,000 instead raised more than $40,000 in the first 36 hours of going live and has generated nearly $100,000 in total.
Since then, the Lubbock Area Association of Health Underwriters dedicated the proceeds of their annual golf tournament in June to the Siegels. They presented the family with a check for $40,000 earlier this month.
Last week, a fitness center in Lubbock had the unique promotion of donating one penny for every calorie burned.
And in September, a United States Tennis Association Pro Circuit event will come to Lubbock for the first time. The Team Luke Tennis Classic will benefit Luke’s continued care.
Tim Siegel grew up a big sports fan and remains one. Luke took after his father.
Besides being a fan, Luke was active in sports as well. He was a regular on the baseball diamond and had just started taking a liking to tennis.
“He loved what most kids don’t love. He loved to practice,” Tim wrote on Facebook. “And he really loved to compete.
“That is exactly what he is doing now. He is competing with everything he has.”
Tim and Luke have seen the Saints play six times, between visits to New Orleans and Dallas.
“I asked Luke recently to blink two times if he wanted to see our New Orleans Saints play Seattle on October 30th,” Tim wrote earlier this month.
Brees and Luke’s favorite former Saint, Jimmy Graham, will both be on the field that day.
“I can assure you he blinked twice,” Tim wrote.
“That will be an emotional and special day.”
Luke’s progress is slight. He has slight movements in his hands and feet and can swallow small pieces of frozen lemonade.
Tim wrote last week: “I believe there are two very, very important reasons why Luke has made some small improvements. Determination and prayer.
“Luke is a mild-mannered, sweet, caring little boy. And a fierce competitor at the same time. He is so determined to try to do what the therapists ask him to do. He never quits.
“Prayer. The power of prayer is real. So real. So many in this wonderful community of ours come up to me and tell me that they are praying for us. Gives me chills.
“Underneath my smile are tears when I hear those words.”
Prayer isn’t the only impact the Siegel family has felt from the community.
Tim writes: “People have come up to me daily telling me how much Luke has impacted the way they parent, or the time they now spend with their children, and how they don’t take things for granted. I have been told that Luke’s determination and fight have impacted adults and children. And many young kids tell me they pray every day for Luke.
“Some have mentioned that Jenny and I have impacted and inspired them. But I want everyone to know that I have been impacted by all of you. Your love and support is fuel for me to keep going. I need visitors, text messages, phone calls, and those that say they pray for Luke. Now more than ever.”
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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…