Colby Liston, an 18-year-old Kansas University student from Derby, lights up when asked about some early research he’s done on prosthetic legs.
Such as learning about micro-processor knee joints that act like a “computer” in your knee, Liston explained.
“It’s pretty cool stuff,” he said.
Two weeks after both of Liston’s legs were severed in a car accident in Lawrence, he’s back at home. A little bored, he admits. Antsy. But adjusting to a life without legs? No big deal.
“It didn’t take long at all,” said Liston, with a shrug. “It’s a lot easier to sit here and say ‘in five weeks I’ll be walking,’ instead of ‘I’ll be in a wheelchair for five weeks.”
At their Derby home, Colby’s dad, Matt Liston, a veteran member of the Derby Police Department, talks about “the call” in the early-morning hours of Aug. 26.
Colby’s brother, Tyson, who plays football at Missouri Western State University, called Matt after hearing about the accident from someone who was with Colby at the time.
“‘I’m heading to Lawrence. Colby’s been in an accident,’” Matt remembers his oldest son telling him.
“You never want or expect to get that call,” Matt said.
Colby said he doesn’t remember the accident.
“I remember going up to the car and then waking up, laying there” in the ambulance, he said.
According to police reports, Colby was standing behind a vehicle parked in a driving lane in the 1600 block of Tennessee, about 1:30 a.m. Another vehicle slammed into Colby, pinning him between the two vehicles. Drivers of both cars were suspected of alcohol use at the scene, and police are awaiting blood-test results before filing any charges.
Colby said his dad, who met him at Kansas University Hospital, told him what happened following the surgery that helped prepare Colby’s legs — severed just above the knee — for prosthetic limbs.
Since then, the family has experienced a whirlwind of support.
“It has just galvanized the community,” said family friend Mark Staatz, who spearheaded some of the early fundraising efforts. “His positive attitude is really what’s driving this.”
Supporters started a fundraising group, Team Liston, selling T-shirts and buttons to help the family pay for the extensive medical costs for prosthetics. At a recent football game at Derby High School, where Colby had played defensive back, he was honored by the team and his No. 9 Derby jersey was retired. KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little stopped by while Colby was in the hospital, just to check in.
But the kicker? A phone call and voice mail from KU head basketball coach Bill Self.
“Maybe he’ll have some tickets for me,” said Colby, with a smirk.
Colby was just a week into his first semester at KU, majoring in petroleum engineering, when the accident happened. He’d been planning on walking onto the KU track and field team, hoping to compete in several events.
That plan ended with the accident, but that doesn’t mean his athletic days are over, said Colby, who had just competed in a triathlon with his dad on Aug. 2.
“We’ll start walking and jogging, then running, and we’ll see where it takes me,” he said.
He’ll need about two weeks before he can get fitted for prosthetics. Five weeks, and he’ll be up and walking, Colby estimated.
The rehab will keep him away from Lawrence this fall, but Colby said he’ll enroll in some online courses in the spring.
“Probably be back at KU in the fall,” he said. “Back to the normal routine, just being a normal kid.”
The biggest surprise through the whole process, Colby said, was the support from people he doesn’t even know and hearing how he’s been an inspiration to others.
Colby’s been active on social media, tweeting updates and pictures to his followers, gaining about a 1,000 since the accident.
“People I don’t even know who will tweet at me and say ‘keep up the good work,’” he said. “When someone tells me that I’m an inspiration to them and I’m their hero, it’s kind of crazy.”