Former UH volleyball player Tony Ching spoke to the media yesterday for the first time since his mo-ped accident last week.

Ching transferred
to Rehab Hospital

The former UH volleyball star says he expects
to resume training by the end of the summer

Patience and perspective have become Tony Ching's new best friends.

As the former Hawaii volleyball player takes the first painstaking steps in his recovery from injuries he suffered in a mo-ped accident nine days ago, he said the experience taught him to take things day by day.

"Everybody keeps reminding me it's small steps," Ching said, sitting in his hospital bed at The Queen's Medical Center yesterday. "It's not going to be one of those things where I can just jump into it and overcome it all at once. That's my main focus right now. Every day I'll take a step further than I did the day before and I think I'll be fine."

Ching, 22, spoke to the media for the first time since being struck by a car at the intersection of Wilder Avenue and Alexander Street on May 23. He was transferred to Rehab Hospital of the Pacific yesterday and is expected to make a full recovery.

"I'll probably be in there a couple of weeks, just trying to do everything normally again," he said.

Following the accident, Ching underwent surgery to relieve pressure in his skull caused by blood clots. He also suffered fractures in both legs and damage to his knees.

Dr. Cherylee Chang, the medical director of QMC's Neuroscience Institute, said although Ching's brain wasn't significantly bruised, the bleeding in his skull could have proved fatal had he not received treatment as quickly as he did.

"It was quick -- minutes would have counted," Chang said. "At the time he was in the ICU he was declining quickly, so any longer time would have been vital."

Said Ching: "From what I was told, I was very lucky to make it through this. My brain was very swollen and there was a lot of blood and I could have easily died. I am very fortunate to be alive."

Ching was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. He said the experience convinced him of the importance of using helmets and expressed his support for a helmet law in Hawaii.

"I know it might not be cool to wear helmets, but it is definitely not cool to be in the hospital, have stitches from ear to ear and plates in your head," he said.

Ching said he experiences headaches periodically, but has been working with physical therapists on using a walker and crutches and is already planning a return to volleyball.

"Realistically, by the end of the summer I plan to be training again for volleyball so I can get back at it next summer and hopefully play professionally somewhere," he said.

Ching, a 6-foot-2 outside hitter, earned All-America honors this season and helped the Warriors win a national championship in 2002. He turned down an invitation to try out with the U.S. national team this summer to concentrate on school, and hopes he can work out with next year's Warriors squad to regain his skills.

He had also planned on going out for the UH football team as a safety in the fall.

"It wasn't really anything serious," he said. "I wasn't going out there to make a difference, I was just going out there just to get through my last year of college playing a sport because that's pretty much what kept me in college. But all those plans are canceled now that I have metal plates in my head."

Ching didn't suffer any memory loss and was alert at the time of the accident. Although he couldn't comment on the details of the accident, he said he recalls the shock of being knocked off his mo-ped and then pulling himself out of traffic.

"I'm really defensive when I ride that thing just because I'm so open and vulnerable," Ching said. "I was so surprised that it caught me off guard because I'm so used to making decisions in split seconds. Playing volleyball has taught me to react and be on my toes at all times. It's just something that I didn't see coming."

Ching maintained his composure through most of the press conference, but broke down when he spoke about his puppy that was lost in the accident. Pea, a 6-week-old Labrador-Akita mix named after the Hawaiian word for bear, was in Ching's backpack at the time of the accident. Ching said he hasn't heard anything about the whereabouts of the bag or the puppy.

"If anybody has him out there, please take care of him," Ching said. "You don't even have to give him back, just take care of him."

Ching also expressed his gratitude for the support his family has received from the community in the days following the accident. His mother, Lynn, said the family has received letters and food from well-wishers throughout the past week.

"It's really kept us sane through all of this," Lynn Ching said. "You really don't know how many fans are out there and how many people really loved watching him play volleyball until something like this happens. Strangers come by, not wanting to bother him but who just want to say that they're praying for him. ... It's just been unbelievable and I really feel like, 'only in Hawaii.' "

Following his brush with death, Ching said his time in the hospital led him to rethink his outlook on life.

"I was always the kind of person who had goals and would plan for the long term. After this accident I think I'm going to be the kind of person who wakes up every morning and takes the day as it comes," he said.

"I always took it for granted the fact that I was able to do what I was able to do. If I can get back to the point I was at before I got in this hospital bed, I'm going to appreciate things a lot more and treat people a lot better than I used to."

As the assembled media left his hospital room, Ching sent them off with a final note.

"Drive safely."


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