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Boy who spent 4 years in hospital is coming home

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Cody McGrath may not be able to speak to you in words. But the 11-year-old's eyes have a story to tell.

A story about a normal, happy 7-year-old and the accident that would change his life. A story about four years in a hospital. A story about coming home.For almost a third of his life, Cody has lived at South Davis Community Hospital on Bountiful's east bench, slowly recovering the littlest of things: the ability to show emotion, sit, move his right leg.

For half of that time, Cody has been waiting to come home. Though quadriplegic and cortically blind - his vision fades in and out - Cody would benefit from visits at home with his mom and baby sister, his doctors say.

But Laura Lingerfelt is a single mother who lives on housing assistance. Two years ago, when Cody was first approved for home visits, she asked to be transferred to a handicap accessible apartment. There were none available. Lingerfelt, who drives a van for the Children's Center, tried to find an apartment on her own and couldn't afford it.

So she made a little home for her only son in a blue bedroom on the third floor of a hospital. There's a wall of videos - "Jurassic Park" is his favorite - and snapshots of his kid sister, Courtney.

Room 304 is where the family spent its Christmases and birthdays, celebrating family days with a growing but silent boy.

Cody was 7 when he was hit by a car while trying to cross a Sandy street after a friend's sleepover birthday party. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, and the doctors pieced his crushed skull back together. For six weeks, he lay at Primary Children's Medical Center. In September 1994, he moved to South Davis.

The first two years he needed the hospitalization, the constant monitoring, the equipment. Then, the doctors said he could start going home for short visits. The goal, though financially unattainable, was to slowly build until Cody was home for good.

He doesn't speak, but over the past two years or so Cody has regained some of who he was before, his mom says. He now looks around the room, nudges his mom with his good leg and laughs silently, his face lit up, his eyes bright.

And so, on a recent Sunday afternoon, Lingerfelt leans down and tells Cody they may be getting a new house. A house without steps, with wide doorways, accessible to his hospital bed and green and black wheelchair. A house he can come home to.

The new home, 2810 S. 8760 West in Magna, is being developed by the nonprofit Community Development Corp. Eleven homes in the Cyprus Grove Circle subdivision are being sold to families that live at 80 percent or below of the area median income.

A loan committee makes the final decision on who gets the houses but officials are confident Lingerfelt will be selected.

"Right now she's in the top three of our list," said Bruce Quint, Community Development Corp. executive director.

The houses range in value from $90,000 to $115,000, though CDC will only charge low-income families what the houses cost to be built. Lingerfelt has already made a $500 down payment and attended Utah State University extension courses in home maintenance, heating and plumbing, security and finances.

If she is chosen, Lingerfelt should be in a home by Christmas.

"Just having him home, sitting out in the yard, watching me mow the lawn, watching his sister swing outside," Lingerfelt said. "That's what I'm looking forward to most."