ST. CLOUD -- Brian Losos realizes he's lucky to be alive.
But the 18-year-old Brainerd teen, who was severely injured in a diving accident the night before his high school graduation in May, has a long road to recovery.
Losos doesn't remember much of anything that happened May 29, except that he attended a Brainerd Warriors baseball game in Alexandria.
That night, the night before he was to graduate from Brainerd High School, he, along with about 15 other friends, went to a beach bonfire party at his friend and classmate Eric Zard's home on Round Lake in Nisswa. Just after midnight, Losos dove off the end of the dock into about 3 feet of water. He didn't resurface right away, but everyone at the party thought Losos was playing a prank on them and was hiding underneath the dock.
"When he didn't come up, we thought he was playing around," said Zard.
About three or four minutes later, they began to get scared. One friend brought a camera with a flash, so she began hitting the flash to attempt to see out into the lake. That's how the teens were able to spot Losos floating motionless underneath the water.
Zard jumped in and pulled him out of the water.
"It was very scary," said Zard. "He's one of my best friends."
No alcohol or drugs were involved in the accident. Losos made a commitment to himself a long time ago not to smoke, drink or do drugs.
"I just don't know how it benefits me, so why do it?" he said.
At BHS, Losos participated in cross country running, the Nordic ski team, track, student council and class cabinet. He also competed in the triathlon class, finishing eighth this year.
Michael Paul, a classmate who is a certified lifeguard, started trying to resuscitate Losos, who wasn't breathing. Someone ran and got Kathy and Clark Zard, Eric's parents, who ran down to the lake and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Kathy is a nurse at St. Joseph's Medical Center and Clark is a dentist who coincidentally had just finished his recertification in CPR. Teens stood on the road and directed emergency personnel to the Zard's home while a helicopter landed in Nisswa to take Losos to the St. Cloud Hospital. By 1:21 a.m. May 30, the helicopter with Losos landed on the roof at the St. Cloud Hospital.
Shortly after Losos was taken away, Kathy Zard gathered the teens together around the bonfire and they prayed.
"Everyone did exactly what needed to be done," said Losos' mom, Louise Severson, who is grateful for their actions to help save her son.
On May 29, Severson had been busy planning a graduation party for her son and worried about making sure her house was clean. She was awakened around 12:45 a.m. with a frantic call by a friend of Losos, saying he had been in an accident, but he was breathing.
Severson and a neighbor rushed to St. Joseph's Medical Center, where they thought her son was being transported, but were only able to watch as the helicopter with her son flew overhead as she stood in the hospital parking lot.
It was an eerily familiar scene for Severson. Two years ago on July 31 -- her birthday -- Brian's older brother, Jeffrey Losos, 19, fell asleep at the wheel of his car on Highway 371 near Pine River and crashed into a semitrailer, killing him. Two years ago, she had watched as the emergency helicopter took away her oldest son, too.
"Unfortunately, now every time I see a helicopter I have bad memories," she said.
Brian Losos was in a coma for 10 days, but doesn't remember anything that happened the first two to three weeks in the hospital. He suffered a brain injury and his fifth vertebrae in his neck was crushed. He had feeling in his body and wasn't paralyzed but couldn't sit up. He had lost all of his muscle strength and has to rebuild this strength. His brain injury hasn't affected his mental abilities and seems to have corrected itself, said his mom.
As he came out of the coma, Losos wanted to know where his brother Jeff was. Severson had to remind her son that his brother was dead. He started to cry, and apologized to his mom for almost dying, too.
"I'm just thankful he's alive. I couldn't go through that again," said Severson, as she smiled at her son. "I'm just waiting until he's better so I can paddle his butt."
Losos has come a long way in the past two months. He can walk, although he remains unsteady on his feet. He isn't able to focus his eyes normally yet, but doctors suspect his vision will improve with time. He's relearning how to tie his shoes and dress himself. Doctors said it may take about 1 1/2 years before they know whether Losos will suffer any permanent disabilities as a result of the diving accident. He now undergoes intensive physical therapy to regain his muscle strength.
"It may take years for him to realize how lucky he is to be here," said his mom. "At 18, you feel you're invincible."
Losos said he doesn't remember or know why he decided to dive into the shallow water. He said he believes someone may have dared him to jump in.
Today Losos was coming home to spend the weekend with his family. He will return to St. Cloud Hospital on Sunday and is expected to be released for good on July 31 -- his mother's birthday.
Losos was planning to attend Central Lakes College this fall but college will have to be postponed until possibly spring. He wants to become a high school teacher, he said.
A benefit has been planned for 4 to 8 p.m. Aug. 19 at Baxter City Park for Losos. Food, beverages and games are planned for the event.
There also is a fund for Losos to help with his medical expenses. Donations may be sent to the Brian Losos Benefit Fund, Bremer Bank, P.O. Box 687, Brainerd, MN 56401.
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