CENTERVILLE — Dustin Dickamore describes what it was like to see again after 4 ½ days in darkness in two words, scrawled in all capital letters on a whiteboard.
"A miracle!" he wrote, before adding: "I've never wanted something so bad in my life."
Dickamore, 28, had already survived "the worst head trauma" the emergency room doctor who treated him had ever seen. But his world had gone black.
After his face was crushed in an ATV accident, the bleak prognosis was that the husband and father of two would not see again, though doctors assured him that within his lifetime there could be hope of a cure.
"The night before he was in the depths of it, just thinking, 'What does the rest of my life hold for us?' and 'What am I going to do?' and he was just so sad," his wife, Ashley, recalled. "His mom was staying with him that night and took a picture of him on his knees praying because he knew that God was the only one that could do it."
Just days before, Dustin and Ashley Dickamore had arrived at their cabin in Bear Lake and the men in their group went to look for animals, while the women stayed inside to chat. Moments later, a friend ran in and told them to call 911.
Dustin had been riding in an ATV when it crashed.
"The roll bar crushed his head between the ground and the (ATV) and shattered his face," Ashley Dickamore said. "Everything except his lower jaw was broken."
She said he was coherent and able to walk himself onto the ambulance as well as off of it when they arrived at Bear Lake Memorial Hospital. This was astounding to Dr. Trevor Robinson, who was working in the emergency room when Dickamore arrived on Sept. 20.
"That was the worst head trauma I had ever seen," Robinson said. "(There was a) huge gaping hole in his head — he almost looked like a cyclops. Everything in his face was broken. … He never cried."
This despite that fact that Robinson estimated it took more than an hour from the time of the accident to get Dickamore to the hospital. He said the man never asked for pain medication, only stating, "It hurts" from time to time.
"He was stoic," the doctor said. "I've never seen anyone handle it that well."
Shawna Dickamore said her son had not been able to see from the minute the accident happened. But there was gratitude for the fact that Dickamore had not suffered any brain damage in the crash — not even a concussion.
The family has since been told by those who treated Dickamore at Bear Lake Memorial Hospital that "it really was a true miracle that he was alive, because they didn't think he would survive the (helicopter flight)," Shawna Dickamore said. "That he's alive, let alone no brain injuries and no paralysis, is amazing."
Dickamore was flown by medical helicopter to a hospital in Salt Lake where he was eventually told that he was most likely blind. An MRI showed what appeared to be a severed optic nerve in his left eye, which his mother said left them distraught as they had hoped that eye could be saved.
She was with him that night and heard him rustling among all the wires and cords around 3 a.m. as he rolled over in the hospital bed and made his way to his knees.
"He felt it so important to kneel down and say his prayers," she recalled. "He's got a lot of faith — he's just a good person who served so much and served so many."
The next day, the doctors essentially told Dickamore that he was blind. They decided to check his eyes once more, his wife said.
The doctor shined a light twice in his right eye. Nothing. The doctor moved to the left eye and again, nothing. But the doctor tried once more.
"He shined the light and (Dustin) said, 'Wait. Do that again. I think I saw that,'" Ashley Dickamore said. "They shined it again and he turned to me and put my face in his hands and brought me up — he could only see just a little box that was really high — and he brought my face up and he said, 'I can see you!'"
The couple and the other family members in the room broke down in tears.
"That was quite a joyous occasion," Shawna Dickamore said.
Robinson described the restoration the same way as his patient.
"That is a miracle," he said. "The surgeon down (in Salt Lake) did a heckuva job, too, but I still have to believe that there were some prayers that were answered."
Since then, Ashley Dickamore said things have been "up and down." The recovery from the most recent surgery, a facial reconstruction, has been difficult for her husband, she said.
Dickamore's jaw is still wired shut, leading him to communicate through writing. He had a tracheotomy to help him eat and breathe, but he is completely confident in his recovery.
"I've been promised full recovery, and that's what is going to happen," he wrote. "It may take some time, but I know it will happen."
The plan, Ashley Dickamore said, is to "work to that day of full health and strength, but be grateful for the things that we have."
"You can either choose to mourn the things you don't have or choose to celebrate the things you do and we have so much," she said.
The hardest times for her have been seeing her husband — whom she describes as "the very best person I know" — in pain. Still, she said, they have complete faith he will be healed.
"He is good through and through," she said. "He does so much for so many people and he just loves to do it. … I think he keeps his promises to Heavenly Father and I know Heavenly Father will keep his promises to him."
On Dec. 7, friends of the family have planned a "ham shoot" fundraiser. More information can be found on the family's website.
Despite everything, Dustin Dickamore has only positive and encouraging words for others facing difficulties.
"Never give up no matter how bad you think it is," he wrote. "Someone else probably has it worse than you and are making it through their challenges.
"Just always believe."
Contributing: Ashley Kewish