By Jacob Tillman
In the early morning hours of July 5th of last year my sister was awoken by an intruder who followed her home from the fireworks show in Ft. Collins, CO. She was raped, severely beaten, and her apartment was set on fire in an attempt to destroy all evidence of the crime. Fortunately, Lydia Tillman wasn't ready to die and she escaped her would be murderer carrying with her the DNA evidence that put him behind bars for good. The man responsible for Lydia's nearly fatal trauma was already under suspicion for the murder of a missing Denver teen named Kenia Monge, but without her body the Denver Police didn't have a strong enough case to arrest him. That changed when his DNA turned up in the Nuero ICU where my sister lay in a medically induced coma for five weeks. About a week after Lydia jumped from the second story window of her apartment to escape the the stranger who nearly killed her, he was stopped in his tracks, quite possibly closing in on his next victim. Travis Forbes was arrested in Ft. Collins, Colorado while walking a drunken college girl home around 3:00am. He was behind bars long before my family and I even knew if Lydia would live or die. We were waiting breathlessly, for a blood clot that caused some of her brain damage to stabilize. When it finally did, she was eased back into consciousness. Our story gets much happier from here: It became clear that she knew who she was, who her family was, and that she understood her surroundings as far as we could tell, but wasn't able to speak. Even when she first started to laugh again, the gesture wasn't accompanied by a sound, she just smiled and shook. I'm sure you can imagine how happy that silent chuckle made me (I was just brought to tears and had to take a pause from writing this story as I recall it). At the trial where Lydia and I sat arm in arm while Travis Forbes plead guilty to his crimes, my sister (still unable to speak) committed herself to an inspired life of peace and love. Our dad read a message of forgiveness to Travis and the court, that Lydia wrote ahead of the proceedings. There wasn't a dry eye in the room, including those of Travis Forbes, his lawyers, and the judge (many more tears as I write). Lydia Tillman is the most remarkable person I have ever met.
Currently, a little over a year after she mustered the strength to save herself from death, Lydia is still drawing on that strength to relearn how to speak, and control her body's coordinated movement. This is a very long and frustrating process, but she is doing great and continues to improve every day. She was an inspiration to everyone she met even before all of this, but is ever more so now.
While many of Lydia's medical expenses have been covered, everything she needs during this process is not. She is scheduled to receive a specialized jaw reconstruction in the beginning of next year from a very talented surgeon that will allow her to eventually return to eating solid foods. In the normal procedure the jaw would be wired shut during a healing period, and that kind of surgery would be covered but, would also be a very large setback in her efforts to form new neural pathways for speech. So my family and I (with the help of many friends) are raising the $65,000.00 price tag to pay for this special surgery outright.
For my part I will continue to skate in my already thrashed pair of Nike high-tops until our fundraising deadline of Jan. 1st, 2013 and share this story, documentation of my shoes, our adventures, and the necessary D.I.Y. shoe repair efforts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Vimeo. I will seek help promoting my cause through the skate, surf and sports media.
Even if you are unable to donate, please help us to share the inspiration of our story far and wide!!! Tell your friends, and family about the incredible survivor named Lydia Tillman and the little fundraiser called Still Kickin' - and don't forget to use the Indiegogo share tools so we can surf through the internet to our fundraising goal!
Help out here: http://www.indiegogo.com/still-kickin
And get updates on The "Friends of Lydia" Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Friends-of-Lydia/191956844193943