April 16th began as a good day for six year old Branden Panameno. He spent the afternoon at a Business Expo helping his family showcase their lawn care business. An avid weather watcher, Branden was thrilled when he got the chance to meet Meteorologist Mark Scirto at the expo. But just hours later Brandon was hit by a truck while riding his bicycle.
While he is still recovering in Dallas Tuesday he got a special surprise.
Branden's kindergarten pictures show he is a typical six year old boy who thought girls had the cooties, video games were an answer to prayer and Mark Scirto was the best Meteorologist ever. His parents say it made Branden's day the when he got to meet him at the business expo.
"After everything had cleared out, Branden was getting balloons. They had all these balloons and he was trying to fit everyone in the car. He had met Mark Scirto at the conference. Right after we went home. Brianna went out front with him and there were kids playing out there and our street isn't real busy," says Branden's mom Julie Everhart.
"He was about to get on a bike and go riding with the other kids. I told him he couldn't get on until he put his helmet on," says his sister Brianna.
His mom remembers what happened next, "We were sitting inside and we heard this loud crash." Branden had been hit. "He wasn't breathing and there wasn't a pulse. We just knew we'd lost him... And then his pulse started in his neck."
One of Branden's relatives called Mark with the news. They said do you remember the kid you met in Longview that had the balloons, and I said sure I do, They said he was just in a bad car accident and I couldn't believe it. I was shocked," says Mark
Branden spent the next couple of months in a coma. There was very little brain activity and doctors weren't optimistic that Branden would ever wake up. If he did, they wondered what his future would hold.
"He had a broken pelvis and an opened fractured leg. He had a broken artery in his pelvis and his leg. He was in a coma for months... Just laying there I mean it was very, very hard to take," says Julie.
But Branden did wake up. Now five and a half months later, Mark Scirto made his day again with a surprise visit.
With his seventh birthday just days away Branden has already learned how precious the gift of life really is.
A fund has been set up in Branden's name to help his family pay for his medical bills that are now into the millions. You can make donations at Texas Bank and Trust in Longview.
Branden has undergone months of physical therapy but his recovery is far from over. Wednesday night his family talks about Branden's struggle to walk again.