When 14-year-old Shane Roof told his dad Darrell Roof that he wasn’t feeling well as they both mowed the lawn before a family cookout for Mother’s Day at their home in Louisville, Kentucky, he didn’t think anything of it.
“I told him to go into the house and lay down,” Darrell tells PEOPLE of the May 13 incident. “When I walked in about an hour later he said his leg was feeling funny.”
Not even three hours later, Shane — a straight-A athlete who had no prior medical history and was looking forward to his upcoming 8th grade graduation — would be rushed to Norton Children’s Hospital after those mild symptoms quickly took a turn for the worst.
At the hospital, Shane was struggling to breathe and move his body. After ruling out a tick bite or lyme disease, he was diagnosed with a spinal cord infarction, which is an interruption to the blood supply in the spinal cord. The infarction was the result of either a viral attack or stroke.
“We are awaiting the results of several tests to determine possible infections, but the cause of the injury is still unknown,” his doctor, Vicki L. Montgomery, tells PEOPLE.
While he continues to regain more and more movement in his lower extremities, they’re still at a loss over what happened.
“The prognosis is unclear and we expect a challenging road to recovery,” says Dr. Montgomery.
Darrell, 40, says they’re stuck in a gray area, but they are trying to remain hopeful.
“We have our ups and downs because we sometimes get those bad thoughts,” he says. “What if he doesn’t recover from this? What’s the future for him? We want him back. They can’t give us any answers. There is no set plan. We just have unknowns, but Shane is so strong.”
A GoFundMe page was also created to help with the expensive and long journey they have ahead of them.
According to his mom, Alexandra Roof, Shane is now able to move his right leg and toes, right wrist and fingers and will hopefully be moving to the Frazier Rehab Institute in Kentucky in the next week or two.
He also has a cuffed tracheostomy that blocks his vocal cords. When his lungs get stronger, they will switch it out for a speaking valve, but for now, they’re forced to lip read. When they can’t understand what he is saying, Darrell made a headband with a laser light so Shane can spell out a word from a poster board that has the alphabet written on it.
“It’s so hard as a parent to see our child in pain and not be able to comfort him,” she says. “We are moving forward, which is a good thing. We continue to remain positive and help him stay strong.”
Darrell and Alexandra have spent every day with Shane at the hospital and sleep in his hospital room each night.
“We’ve had an unbelievable amount of friends and family supporting us,” he says. “We want to be here and we want to be comforting for our son.”
It also helps Shane’s parents to see how strong he’s been through the entire ordeal. His girlfriend, Parker, has come to visit him every day, and the two recently celebrated their eight-month anniversary at the hospital. Before he fell ill, Shane spent his time hiking, fishing and being in the outdoors.
“Shane is amazingly tough. He’s expressed to us that he wants to go home,” says Darrell. “I think he understands and is staying optimistic. He’s taking it really well. He’s super strong willed and loving.”