From baby steps to leaps and bounds, AFD's Ben Schultz making 'exciting' progress

Published: Apr. 2, 2018 at 2:48 PM AKDT
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For the past three days, Jeff Schultz – father of Anchorage firefighter Ben Schultz, who was on the brink of death after a horrific fall in 2017 – has been in Nebraska.

He's been there with Ben, who's gone quite literally from baby steps to leaps and bounds in his recovery.

"Last week, he drove for the first time for an hour," Jeff said Monday, "and he passed the driving test. That was big."

Ben himself has taken everything in stride.

"So far, it's been great," Ben said of his rehabilitation. "It's been a lot of work, a lot of improvement. Just taking one day at a time."

In February, Jeff called Ben

. That's coming from a parent who wasn't sure his son would ever be able to breathe on his own again.

"We are not here very often with him," Jeff said. But, "we – the family – are holding up okay, because he’s doing so well.

"He’s [now] on his own more often than not," he said.

Following numerous surgeries to repair everything from swelling to ruptures to broken bones, the younger Schultz's once-shattered ankle is now weight-bearing just six weeks after one of his biggest surgeries to repair it. He's walking on it "quite a bit," his father told Channel 2 News via email, and will be doing so for another month.

Aside from rebuilding his body back up and regaining physical strength, Ben Schultz has also had to start from scratch in rebuilding his brain function. However, the challenges over the past year have far from stopped him; in fact, they seem to have been fuel for the fire.

Slowly but surely, he's returned to things he loves doing: He cooks, sometimes even for large groups; attends church and Bible study at a church in Omaha; and, last but certainly not least, talks with his family - including his kids - a few days each week.

"Dad's here this week," Ben said Monday. "Mom came at the end of February, beginning of March. I get to FaceTime my kids almost every day, and yesterday, I got to watch them open up their Easter baskets.

"It's been wonderful," he said.

But there's one thing in particular that Ben has his eye on.

"What [Ben] is most excited about is that he is doing EMS training at a local college and doing firefighter training," Jeff said. "It’s a big motivation... as well as exciting for him."

WOWT photojournalist Ryan Millsap contributed to this report.