UCF student on long road to recovery after being hit by car: 'Every second counts'

A 19-year-old UCF student and cancer survivor who was hit by a car on his way to work is finally out of hospital and on the road to recovery.

On January 16, two days after his 19th birthday, Grayson Zrelak was hit by a car while crossing North Ronald Reagan Blvd. near Church Ave. in Longwood. After more than one month in hospital, the teen is back home recovering.

"It’s nice to be able to sleep in my own bed, it’s nice to be able to eat my mom’s amazing cooking, it’s nice to just be able to sit down and relax," said Zrelak.

Zrelak’s severe injuries left him in a medically induced coma for weeks, and at the time, his prognosis was uncertain.

"The trauma team doctors came up to us and let me know that he may not make it through the night," said Carl Zrelak. "That was the gut punch I’ll never forget."

His parents, Carl and Michelle, were at his bedside the entire time.

"It was so difficult to sit there and watch and not be able to do anything," Carl Zrelak said.

Zrelak has a long road to recovery but is no stranger to hospitals. The two-time cancer survivor always pushes forward.

"I think of myself as a cat," Zrelak said. "I have six lives left… three are already gone!"

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Oftentimes, he relies on humor to add some much-needed levity to a heavy time.


"He goes, ‘Is it true that I almost died?’ and I said, ‘Yes,’ and I said, ‘But you’re here now,’ and he kinda said to me, ‘Well, that wouldn’t have been good, would it?’ and I’m like, ‘Oh my God!’ so, as I composed myself, I said, ‘no, that would not have been good.’"

Now, Zrelak is focused on the future. His long-term goal of returning to the University of Central Florida, where he studies web design, isn’t overshadowed by his short-term goal of taking a normal shower. Through it all, his positive outlook is unwavering.

"If you’re negative, you’re never going to get anywhere in life," Zrelak said. "Always make sure every second counts and try to live your life to the fullest."

Zrelak has an upcoming facial reconstruction surgery, and then, closer to the end of March, he’ll have his trach and feeding tube removed.

After his recovery, the teen said he hopes to get into some advocacy work and speak out against distracted driving.

A GoFundMe to help with Grayson’s medical bills has raised more than $91,000.