Teenager Thomas Schoettle has been paralyzed since late last month after breaking his neck in a freak diving accident.
To him, being bedridden was eclipsed by the fact he couldn’t go to Friday’s Zac Brown Band concert in Philadelphia. The group is his absolute favorite in the whole wide world.
So Zac Brown came to see Thomas, in a surprise visit that left the 17-year-old reduced to repeating, “I can’t believe you guys are here,” and “That’s awesome!”
Brown, 38, came striding into Schoettle’s rehab center room, grinning from ear to ear. “I figured since you couldn’t come to us, we’d come to you,” the singer of hits such as “Toes” and “All Alright,” told the teen.
“Get the hell out of here,” Schoettle said from his hospital bed, where he was lying on his back with a brace supporting his fractured neck.
His mother, Samantha Springfield-Schoettle, told InsideEdition.com that Thomas looked at her and asked “Is that Zac Brown? It can’t be.”
Brown arrived Saturday afternoon and spent about 30 minutes with the teen, telling him to hang in there and to keep working hard.
The singer brought band swag, including T-shirts, the group’s new CD and a tote bag. Schoettle will get free tickets to next year’s show, his mom said.
"For some reason, he just decided to pick Thomas," his mother said. “It was super, super, super cool.”
Thomas was injured horsing around in his friend’s above-ground pool.
Springfield-Schoettle said she and other parents were always yelling at their sons to not dive in the pool. “It’s too shallow. It’s four-and-a-half feet,” she said.
But teenage boys will be teenage boys. And somehow Thomas managed to slam into the bottom of the pool head first.
Thomas couldn’t move a thing after that, and floated facedown to the surface. His friends thought he was playing, his mom said.
They realized soon enough that it wasn’t a game. His friends got him out of the pool and an adult began CPR.
Thomas had broken his neck and severely bruised his spine. He now faces months of rehabilitation. So far, he has regained some movement in his hands and his right leg.
But his left leg is wracked by pain and he can’t move it. This does not discourage him or his mother.
The doctors have said the teenager will make a good recovery, his mom said.
And he is determined to walk out of the rehabilitation center where he now lives.
When it became apparent there was no way Schoettle could attend his music idol’s concert, the father of his best friend wrote to Brown's social media account, explaining what happened and asking if there was any way the performer could stop by to see Thomas.
Someone in his camp responded Wednesday. "They said, 'Zac wants to come see this kid,'" the teen's mother said.
"He flew in on a helicopter and landed on the hospital’s front lawn," she said, laughing. "Thomas had no idea."
It was hard to tell who was more enthralled, Schoettle or his starstruck mother.
“I was an idiot,” she said. “I was so nervous.”