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Updated: Monday, 03 Sep 2012, 6:41 PM CDT
Published : Monday, 03 Sep 2012, 12:02 PM CDT
AUSTIN (KXAN) - The University of Texas soccer athlete who has been on a long road to recovery after being injured in a February hit-and-run was back at the university to accept a big honor from the Big 12.
The athletic conference named Kylie Doniak "Big 12 Sportswoman of the Year" on Friday night, during the halftime in her sister's Virginia game against the Longhorns.
After greeting the stadium of people, she immediately began to thank God for everything in her life, before and after the accident.
"He made me OK. And, um, I'm just so happy to be here again," said Doniak through a microphone as she stood in the middle of the soccer field. "I’m just really thankful, and faith has always meant so much to me. I’m just thankful, and God means a lot."
A post by her sister Alyssa on the CaringBridge website said the Doniak family was in Texas to watch Makenzy play soccer for the University of Virginia.
Through the seven months following the wreck, Doniak's worked hard through physical therapy and trying to job her memory -- both long- and short-term.
"It’s good having the support and then also them supporting us," she said that night on the field. "We’ve been through a lot, and we’re OK with it. And it’s just amazing to see them giving us support."
She did not leave the field before showing some team spirit as she stood on the Texas field, saying, "Hook ‘em" and sporting her new ring to commemorate the award.
Lawsuit surrounding hit-and-run incident
Just more than two weeks ago, Doniak's family filed suit against Yassine Enterprises, the company that owns a chain of Downtown Austin bars that were recently shut down by FBI agents as part of an extensive drug raid.
In addition to the numerous physical injuries the lawsuit lists for Doniak, it contends: "In an instant, she went from being an independent, highly accomplished soccer star at the University of Texas, weeks away from completing her senior year and graduating from college, to a young child trapped in a 22-year-old's body."
Doniak has been recovering since 22-year-old suspected drunken driver Nicholas Colunga hit her as she crossed the street. Colunga is charged with intoxication assault and failure to stop and render aid.
The Doniak family has brought the lawsuit against the Sixth Street bars Vice and Fuel and their parent organizations, CKAN, Inc. and Yassine Enterprises, respectively.
The family alleges both companies -- as licensed providers of alcoholic beverages -- provided alcohol to an intoxicated adult, Colunga, who then went on to get into a wreck that night in Downtown Austin with Doniak.
The lawsuit goes on to say that "it was apparent to Vice [and Fuel] that Nicholas Ray Colunga was obviously intoxicated and presented a clear danger to himself and to others," alleging that his "intoxication proximately caused injury to plaintiffs."
Damages listed in lawsuit
Mother Lori Doniak
Father Dave Doniak
The Doniak family is seeking "unliquidated damages within the jurisdictional limits " of the district court.
Drug raid on Yassine Enterprises
The FBI raid of four downtown nightclubs left 10 people arrested and charged with federal crimes -- including firearms, money laundering and drug trafficking that allegedly dates back to December 2007.
Hussein Ali Yassine, his two brothers and their executive assistant were in the group arrested in connection to the March 22 raid on several Sixth Streets bars between Neches and Trinity streets.
The Texas Comptroller's Office seized $150,000 in cash and other assets when they conducted a search of Yassine Enterprises on April 25.
A special agent from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service testified that in March of this year, Mike Yassine moved an "unknown" amount of money from a Swiss bank account to a Lebanese bank account in the name of his mother. These transactions totaled up to $132,000 throughout the last several years, he said.
He also testified that the brothers fell behind in liquor sales taxes due the state, which could reach $2.5 million.
At the same time, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has said it will hold a hearing in the
near future and plans to cancel eight of the liquor permits Yassine Enterprises holds for its clubs.
Even so, many of the bars in the downtown district remain closed and are actually up for sale.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks has set an Oct. 1 trial date for several suspects in the raid.
Doniak's recovery process
As stated in the lawsuit, "Today Kylie still has little short-term memory. She cannot recognize many of her closest friends. She has trouble communicating and gets very easily frustrated. She needs additional physical therapy and still more surgery."
Three months after that devastating wreck and several medical facilities later, Doniak finally got to sleep at home rather than in medical facilities. Suffering from a broken leg and a damaged ACL in her knee, she is now able to walk without a cane permanently.
"Her knee is still bothering her, so keep praying for her knee to get stronger and for her balance to become better and better," read a post by her sister, Alyssa, on the CaringBridge website in early May. "We are focusing on pain management and strength exercises for now."
Doniak spent two months in medical facilities following her injuries, and she moved back home to California in late February so she could continue her rehab but for the first time on April 18 -- headed to the comfort of her home to sleep in her own bed.
According to her sister, Doniak is now tasked with the daily prayer at the family's dinner every night, thanking God profusely for everything she and her family have been blessed with.
"She told us last night that she was so happy that she could be used by God to bring people to Him. I was speechless (and teared up of course)," said Alyssa. "Keep praying for her clarity because she still is very confused a lot and she repeats questions over and over all day. :) She is starting to know some of the answers, but we have to prompt her and remind her that she knows."
The family asks for prayers of patience as they try to answer her questions in the best way to help Doniak remember and understand.
Doniak began a day program April 19, where she is able to live at home and go to therapy during the day.
Alyssa said that while her sister's homecoming is very exciting, it puts a little more pressure on them -- especially their mother -- to be the best nurse they can be. They will be on call at all times.
"This really is a journey, and we never know where we're going next," read a post by Alyssa on April 19.
Doniak's boyfriend and family, from Texas, have made a couple of trips to California to visit the recovering athlete.
Doniak got some brief time away from her rehabilitation center in California to spend some quality family time at her grandfather's house for Easter -- and even found the coveted "Golden Egg" during the egg hunt.
"Today was the best Easter that my family could ever have asked for," read a post by Alyssa on April 8. "Kylie was able to leave the hospital for a little field trip and come to my grandparent's house for the day."
Photos from the CaringBridge website show the Doniak sisters posing for an Easter photo, among others of her bowling and kicking around the soccer ball with her teammates.
Doniak is reportedly making huge strides every day. It's a process that has transpired throughout 10 weeks, something her family said is "such a short amount of time in the big picture."
In the days leading up to Easter, Doniak -- who is showing more of her personality -- spent some time making a birthday card for her father and prepping to bake some cupcakes for his Friday celebration.
Meanwhile, Doniak continues to work through her speech and physical therapy, while her family focuses on getting her to eat and take in enough calories to sustain her daily activities.
Much of the recovery focus is on Doniak's short-term memory and her right knee. According to CaringBridge posts by family, it is the knee she had ACL surgery on in December and is the leg that now has the rod in the tibia following the February wreck.
While it is likely the ACL is torn again, family members said doctors are not sure if it is.
"It hurts her a lot when she walks, which inhibits her mobility," read a Thursday post by Alyssa. "They can't do surgery on it for awhile, so the only thing we can do is pain management. Pray also for her to sleep well each night and heal that body and brain so she can keep engaging in therapy full force!"
In addition, her feeding tube has been removed. Family members said they hope the hole in her neck closes up soon, and without infection, because it is very bothersome to Doniak while it heals.
Special note on April 19 from Doniak's mother and father, posted by Alyssa
"Special note from my mom and dad: Thank you so much for all of the love and support that we continue to receive. There are no words really for the amount of support that we have been given these past couple of months. We know this will be a long road and we know that we are not alone in
this. Everything, from the delicious homemade dinners being delivered to our house every week, to the visits from friends and family at the hospital (with snacks!), to the cards and letters we receive at home, does not go unappreciated, trust me! Every little thing has made this difficult time in our lives a little bit easier. Keep praying and watching God work through our amazing girl. We love you all!"
The first images of Doniak since the hit-and-run wreck showed her hugging her dad during physical therapy and another of her kicking a soccer ball as she's seated in a wheelchair.
A post March 12 read:
"Kylie had another good weekend and day today. She said hello when the phone rang and she is starting to slowly string together some words and get some thoughts out to us. It does not happen every time we ask her a question but it is sooo great to hear her voice!!!"
In late February, Chili's locations throughout the Central Texas area hosted a fundraiser for Doniak and her family. One is happening Wednesday in Glendora, Calif.
A man chased down the driver charged with running down Doniak, and crime victims' rights group and nonprofit organization Crime Victims First awarded 47-year-old Sisto Perez with a medal and a certificate of appreciation for his single-hand apprehension of the man.
Perez, who was riding his motorcycle downtown when a car ran over Doniak and others, said he was just helping police when he sprang into action.
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