Roughly four months after being struck by a vehicle while on duty, Nye County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Duane Downing’s condition is improving, according to his daughter Deidra Gromis, 25.
Downing sustained critical injuries as a result of the May 21 accident, where he was assisting with traffic control during a vehicle fire in Tonopah.
“He’s doing really good and recovering well,” Gromis said this week. “He’s recovering much faster than we expected, but it’s still taking some time. He goes to the rehabilitation facility five days a week, from 9 to 3. He is communicating and speaking with more clarity now, but his mind is still a little jumbled. I’m just glad he can communicate much better than he has before.”
Just weeks after the crash, Gromis said she came up with an idea to show support for her father by way of a customized T-shirt, bearing the American flag and Downing’s name.
Gromis noted that her idea gained much popularity in the Tonopah community and beyond.
In fact, a friend of Gromis and the Downing family, Christy Perry, organized a fundraiser with help from Custom Ink, the online retail company which makes custom apparel such as T-shirts and sweatshirts.
“After I started wearing it, everybody wanted the same T-shirt and they were asking me where they could get one,” Gromis said. “We started the Custom Ink fundraiser so everybody could get their own T-shirt. It went really well and raised quite a bit of money. It was so successful that afterward someone told me that we should wear them every Friday to show our support. Now, every Friday, everybody wears their T-shirts to show their support and love. I really didn’t think much of it at first because it was just something I wanted to do for my dad.”
Additionally, Gromis urged those who made a purchase, to send her a photo of themselves wearing the T-shirt.
“I did that because I wanted to make a poster board for my dad,” she said. “Ever since, I have gotten a ton of pictures and it was really amazing to see. Every time I talk to him, I tell him about all of the love and support the community and county is showing and I tell him that everybody is praying for his recovery. He didn’t really understand how much support there was for him.”
Hope for the holidays
As a longtime member of his community church in Tonopah, Downing would regularly request to provide the closing prayer each Sunday.
As a consequence, Gromis said the community came together and offered a symbol of hope and inspiration for her father, by way of the town’s well-known holiday star.
“Every year, the town of Tonopah lights up the Christmas star during the holidays,” she said. “At a candlelight vigil one of the girls who goes to church with him told me about his closing prayer and the fact that he wanted to be the light in Tonopah and make a difference in people’s lives. Then a friend and I were talking about getting the Christmas star here in Tonopah lit up in honor of my dad. The community was all for it and were happy to do it. The star will remain lit until he comes home. Right now it is shining bright every night like a beacon to help lead him home.”
Concern from colleagues
As a Tonopah Town Board member, Gromis said his fellow town board members are also showing support during each meeting.
“From what I hear, the town board is functioning OK in my dad’s absence,” she said. “They do have a moment of silence for him at every single meeting and talk about how he’s doing with his recovery. Some of the board members would message me about his recovery so they can update the other board members about his condition. He’s no longer in the hospital. He’s now staying at a care facility.”
Though the road to full recovery appears to be a long one, Gromis said she is positive her father will eventually return home.
“He’s proud of himself that he’s walking without a walker now,” she said. “He is also confident that he will be coming home. He continues to focus on getting better and coming home and that’s what he talks about the most when I see him. He’s also concerned about his fellow deputies and how they are doing. He just wants everybody to know that he is recovering well even though his recovery is slow. The doctors are still evaluating him to see where he is physically, but it’s really hard to say when he will be able to come home. I just want to let the people in Nye County know that I am so grateful for their support of my father.”
Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @pvtimes