A former Sammamish High School football star who was gravely injured last September is about to undergo what he expects to be his final surgery -- marking a dramatic recovery from a skull fracture that doctors first thought would leave him with lifetime disabilities.
J.D. Aylward was found unconscious on early in the morning of Sept. 23 on a quiet cul-de-sac in Bellevue. A driver noticed his body on the road and called for help.
Aylward spent week in the hospital with an injury so severe that doctors cut away a portion of his skull so that brain swelling wouldn't kill him.
"I had my left whole eye socket broken. I had cuts scrapes and bruises," Aylward said.
He didn't know about the silent hospital vigils that lasted weeks. "People are telling me about seizures and coma and blood transfusions because I was unconcious," he said.
On Thursday, surgeons are scheduled to install a plate in Aylward's skull to replace the piece removed soon after his injury. The former Boise State football star said doctors told him no one will be able to tell once the plate is in place.
Aylward said all he remembers from that night was going to a wedding then heading with friends to Munchbar, the Bellevue nightclub that was closed late last year after a Christmas Eve shooting that left one person dead.
"I dont know what happened, if I did would be easier to sit here and talk to you. But we're talking about a blank space in time," Aylward said.
He doesn't like to think about his dark days in the hospital, and for now he won't take off his hat until doctors close his skull.
"I've been waiting for that for a long time. And I feel great. Now it's a matter of the last surgery and everything being perfect," Aylward said.
Aylward had never met the taxi driver who found him and called for help. But he obtained that man's name from a detective at Bellevue Police Department. KING 5 was there for their first meeting.
"He was laying right here, on the back, leg kind of like that," said the driver, whose first name is Kiet and who asked that his last name not be revealed because whoever hurt Aylward remains at large.
Aylward and Kiet were a little shy at first but were soon sitting on the couch in Kiet’s living room trading information about that moment in time that Aylward can’t remember and Kiet can’t forget. Soon they were shaking hands, calling each other “brother” and giving each other fist bumps.
Kiet told Aylward that when he found him in the street he thought Alyward was dead—until he saw a finger moving. Even then, Kiet said he was worried that Aylward wouldn't survive.
"At first I swear I thought you didn't make it," Kiet said. "Then when I heard the news I was like so happy, yes!"
Both Kiet and Aylward say they hope police solve the case.
Alwyard said he is “frustrated and scared” about the lack of answers.
“What if it happens again?” he said. “There’s someone out there, someone speak up, help me out, help the next person out that’s gonna get hurt next time."
Bellevue Police said they are still investigating the case but have not identified any suspects. They are asking anyone who might have seen something to contact them via email Pdtipline@bellevuepd.gov or phone 425-577-5656.