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A veteran who was in a coma is making great strides in recovery

HOUSTON – One family is celebrating Thanksgiving with more blessings to count. Their loved one is making strides in recovery after a freak accident left him in a coma. 

KPRC first introduced viewers to 51-year-old John Sanborn in March, just weeks after Sanborn suffered from a freak accident on Feb. 25. 

"It's been a really, really long journey since February," said Janine Sanborn, John's oldest daughter. "My dad had a fall. A very, very bad fall, so he had a traumatic brain injury after working around the house."

That Sunday, John decided to do housework before taking his family to church. However, the family received a knock on their door from a woman who said a man was laying on the ground next to the ladder. It was John. He had fallen off the ladder.

"We've gone through so much as a family," Janine said.

John is a father of three--18-year-old Bradley, 21-year-old Allison and 24-year-old Janine. They say their dad is their hero. He was the breadwinner, the cook and the leader.

"He had the answers to everything for everything I needed help on, and I could always go to him," said Allison Sanborn, the second oldest child in the Sanborn family.

He was a man who gave everyone his all--a decorated army veteran who also helped feed hundreds of first responders after Hurricane Harvey. 

"He's taught me how to be strong," said Bradley. "He's just been a man that's helped people whether it be Hurricane Harvey or a random car accident on the street."

Almost immediately during Hurricane Harvey, the veteran led his team to set up cooking stations to feed first responders and Harvey survivors. He would bring his children to teach them about service.

"Whenever there was anyone we could see that needs our help, he taught my siblings, my family and I that it's just our human duty to help these people," said Bradley. "We actually went to help the first responders. His team, along with restaurant company Levy Restaurants, went to set up a bunch of tables, cots, anything to help these people like the American Red Cross or any first responders."

It was a lesson of service that his children will never forget. They have been by their dad's side just about every day since the accident, making time to visit him whenever possible.

"The nurses said, 'He must be some kind of husband and father because you're here all the time,' " said his wife Norma.

Keeping faith and prayer, even after months of no signs of cognizance, Norma and the children never gave up.

"Originally it was so hard because we had no idea how to communicate with him," Janine said.

But slowly, their dad started showing signs of comprehension.

"One day he started writing, 'My happy family' and listed all of our names,' Janine said.

Writing messages, including, 'Never fear' and 'God is good,' John gave his family hope, though he had a long road ahead. His family, with the help and donations from the community, held on, keeping John in the hospital as long as they could.

"It was just like a life virtue basically that my dad's taught us," Bradley said. "No matter what happens, be strong, and you're going to make it through."

Eventually, months later, John was out of the hospital and is now in therapy.

"Physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy--they are all important, and I hope that it will continue and they will continue to service him," Norma said.

The family said their insurance only covers a certain amount of sessions, but they will fight to keep him there longer.

"The medical bills are quite expensive and the money runs out quickly, but we're doing what we can," Janine said.

"We will always hope for the most positive outcome," Bradley said.

With support from the rehab staff and nurses, along with help from the community, John is able to walk with some assistance.

"The doctors and therapists said he will not have lost all of his physical strength, so they are very hopeful for him," Janine said.

A man, who was once unresponsive, now starting to learn to walk again, swallow again and use his arms.

"[The physical therapists and staff] are very excited to work with him, and I can see a lot of progress every day," Norma said.

However, what makes this family most happy is seeing a man they've known their whole life.

"He's the strongest person I know and the smartest person I know, so I'm just glad that we have a little bit of that now," Allison said.

They share precious moments, like watching comedic YouTube videos, watching him smile, react and laugh. Their faces light up when he smiles, he gives a thumbs up or a fist pump back to his kids.

''It's like we have our dad back...It means so much," Janine said.

"It's honestly my most favorite thing when I come back from college--seeing him smile," Allison said.

On this Thanksgiving, this family couldn't be more thankful for people's kindness and God.
"Even the people that I don't know that are supporting and praying for John, I really thank you from the bottom of our hearts," Norma said.

A family friend set up a GoFundMe page for those looking to help: