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From patient to advocate: Teen becomes 'champion' after surviving near death experience

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Courtesy: Sacred Heart Hospital

From trauma to triumph, Drew Barefield has quite the story. One of his doctors said triumph felt far away at first.

Pediatric surgeon Bryan Weidner said, "If you look up Drew's injuries, they were almost insurmountable, odds against him."

In 2014, Drew was hit by a speedboat while snorkeling with his father. The hit-and-run incident left a hole in his chest, an exposed lung, major injuries to his spine, spleen, liver, and pelvis and both kidneys.

Dr. Weidner performed and oversaw the slew of specialists who operated 13 times on Drew during his 75 day hospital stay. Weidner credited Drew with teaching his staff invaluable lessons.

He said, "Drew brought us together as a team for, in ways, we didn't realize that we were capable of doing. He expanded our abilities."

Now healed and rehabbed, Drew Barefield is truly a fighter and an "official champion." That's his role with the Children's Miracle Network.

Each state selects a patient as the face of recovery and hope. Florida leaders chose Drew.

"I have a big role as an ambassador to represent to all the children in our hospital in Florida," Drew said.

Over the last 18 months, Drew has visited many corporate headquarters to personally thank sponsors, volunteered, and spoken at many events. He's eager to spread his story of survival to fund future and current patients. It's a role he's grown into.

"I've learned. I used to really shy, but now doing interviews and stuff like that," he said with a smile.

Pushing past his reserve, Drew and his very involved family have raised more than a million dollars for children's hospitals.

"When I came in bloody and sandy from the beach, didn't know how to dust myself off and get up, they picked me up and dusted me off and were just there to support me," Trey shared.

Barefield said Drew's work as a champion has been a crucial turning point from patient to advocate. "We've healed, we went through the rehab. The 18 months of recovery now, let's move forward and pay it forward," Barefield emphasized.

All around, everyone learned, and are super thankful as Barefield said they can finally fully embrace what turned out to the best possible outcome.

Dr. Weidner agreed. He said, "They never gave up the faith and his family in particular, even on the darkest days were so grateful."

Drew is not done being grateful, he wanted to send a special message to people all along the Gulf Coast.