HOUSTON (KTRK) --Andrew Casarez had just started his college years when a driver veered into his lane, striking him and his girlfriend head on.
"Normal day, had gone to the mall, and was coming home," said Casarez.
But nothing was normal after that day in 2003.
It was Life Flight to the rescue, yet even by air from Magnolia, medics weren't sure what the outcome might be. "They thought they were loading a dead body into a helicopter," said Casarez.
Life Flight got him there then a doctor known for his folksy style, mustache and cowboy boots would take it from there.
The patient remembers him leaning over his bed as he regained consciousness. "That mustache, I was like I know that guy from somewhere, something. Then he said I'm Dr. Duke, that's the Dr. Duke," Casarez said.
Duke and the team oversaw his recovery.
Three months were in bed, more time in a wheelchair and then crutches finished the intense recovery. Andrew Casarez said it was on that journey to recovery that his life's purpose became clear to him.
"I was obviously way more driven and had a goal at the end of the tunnel that I wanted to reach, nursing school," he said. He now works for Memorial Hermann Cypress adding, "It's what he did for me, and I feel like hopefully I'm doing that for somebody else now."
Duke died a year ago and this year marks the fortieth anniversary of Life Flight. A special gallery is dedicated to him and Life Flight teams who have saved thousands of lives.
Eric von Wenckstern, Administrative Director for Memorial Hermann Life Flight said, "He loved his patients and his patients would come up to me if I was in my flight uniform and say do you know Dr. Duke? They were so proud to have been treated by him."
Casarez never got to work with Duke but lessons were still learned. He said, "Kind of like that wrist band, what would Jesus Do? What would Doctor Duke do? Think of everything, this is their worst day." He did meet him in the hospital hallway one day where his legacy lives on and Dr. Duke's work carries on.