Two weeks after then-eighth grader Lane Schweitzer hit his head in gym class at Elkhorn Middle School, his father, Chad, noticed a different look in his son’s eyes.
Lane was looking through him—not at him.
Then the stuttering started. Lane eventually lost his speech and couldn’t use most of his right side. He couldn’t hold a fork.
What his parents learned was a traumatic brain injury meant the honor-roll student couldn’t even write, Chad said.
Lane’s mother, Judy, said the Elkhorn teenager didn’t know who his own family was.
“There’s a lot of nights I walked through the woods because who knows?” Chad said. “I mean, I didn’t know if he was coming out of it—if he was going to live with us for the rest of his life.
“It was a long, long, long, long year,” he said.
But with a Herculean effort from Lane, his family and other support systems, Lane made a near-complete recovery. He was doing well in school again, Judy said of the Elkhorn Area High School sophomore.
“He taught us all that there’s no reason … I don’t know how to say it,” she said. “He taught us that you don’t give up.”
Judy thought Lane’s recovery would be the most difficult task she would have as a parent.
But Judy’s baby, the boy who always shook the hands of military members he saw, the tall teenager who could always make you laugh, on March 27 died after his Yamaha dirt bike collided with a Ford Expedition near W7889 Reliance Road in the town of Whitewater.
Sitting on the side of the road, Judy wanted Lane’s body moved away from the crash. She wanted to hold her son’s hand.
The medical examiner asked her if she wanted Lane to be an organ donor, and Judy said no. Nobody would touch her baby, she said.
But when Chad, who had been in Green Bay that afternoon, returned, he asked, “Judy, what would Lane want?”
“I said, ‘Lane’s always willing to help somebody,’” Chad said.
They decided to donate.
Judy knew they needed somewhere big for this Saturday’s memorial services—her son touched a lot of lives, she said. They couldn’t do it at the high school because Lane’s friends and his sister, Cheyenne, have to go back there every day.
The family picked the Elkhorn Middle School—where she said Lane and his family’s lives changed forever—to bring it all full circle, she said. The school district offered anything they needed, so they went with it.
Superintendent Jason Tadlock said Lane was a “really kind individual” who was well-liked by students and staff.
Julia Bikowski, also a sophomore in Elkhorn, said Lane—the friend who would always wait at her locker, who would spray his cologne on her as a joke—was a “really caring person” who always asked his friends about their day.
Lane and Julia met in third grade through 4-H.
Lane showed sheep, and the money he made went into his savings—except when Lane really wanted a truck. Using his own money, Lane bought “Big Blue,” a 1987 Chevy with an 8-foot stepside box that made him so proud.
“We hit so many car shows last year,” Judy said.
After Saturday’s services, Lane’s obituary says he will take his final ride in “Big Blue,” the truck that made any day a good day as long as he got to ride in it.
Lane was a hard worker. While other kids his age were going on rides at the county fair, Chad said his son insisted on working at the tent for a La Grange church.
Chad said Lane wanted to go into the Marines but couldn’t after his brain injury.
Lane worked at an Elkhorn dairy farm on Saturday mornings, starting at 4:30 a.m.
Judy and Chad would get texts from Lane on those mornings. They would be pictures of the sunrises he saw while many of his classmates had their eyes shut, fast asleep.
“He knew how to stop and enjoy the moment,” Judy said. “He took the time to enjoy life. He really did.”
Now, Lane is gone, and his last ride will be Saturday.
But through his donated organs, Chad knows Lane helped others just like he used to. Chad hopes to meet those people one day.
Someone out there has Lane’s eyes, the same ones that looked at his mom and dad when he was recovering in the hospital and couldn’t speak or move. The same eyes that saw the Saturday morning sunrise.
“I hope everybody comes forward to us in a year when they can,” Chad said.
“I hope to see his eyes again, you know?”