Daryn's Fight: Wilton community rallies behind Clark family


On the evening of Thursday, Dec. 16, Wilton Police Chief Dave Clark was leading a contingent of area Muscatine County police officers through the busy aisles of Walmart in Muscatine during the second annual Wilton Police Department “Shop with a Cop” event. The lives of 26 area Wilton youth were brightened during two separate shopping excursions Dec. 16-17.

The biggest was the opening night, where young children were each paired with an officer and given $200 to shop for loved ones. Afterward, the children brought all their gifts back to Wilton’s City Hall for pizza and gift wrapping.

Along for the ride that night was Chief Clark’s son, Daryn Clark, a 2020 Wilton High School graduate. Daryn took part in the event as an active member of the volunteer Wilton Fire Department. He raced around the store that evening, helping both his father and special friend he was paired with to help shop for Christmas gifts.

It was a triumphant moment for the Clarks, as officer Dave had seen the second straight year of Wilton’s Shop with a Cop event meet its fundraising goals, and help several local Wilton students in need.

“The community deserves so much recognition for that. It’s so tough to pull all that together. I was very worried that the community may not support it for a second year. But they did! Over and above,” said Chief Clark. “We made 26 kids from 18 families’ lives just a little easier this year. Daryn played a much bigger role this year too. It’s very special to him.”

Little did they know that less than 72 hours later, the Clarks would be in the middle of another event — what’s been dubbed “Daryn’s Fight.”

On the night of Sunday, Dec. 19, at approximately 7:43 p.m., Daryn Clark was involved in a single-car accident on Moscow Road between Highway 6 and F70. The mid-1990s Camaro he was driving went off the road and flipped, trapping a passenger inside and ejecting Daryn from the car. The passenger, Jakob Niles, would sustain relatively minor injuries. Daryn was taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics via air care with multiple head injuries, a shattered pelvis, and other bodily injuries. In the days since, he’s had multiple surgeries on both his pelvis and head, leaving the family with many more questions than answers when thinking about the long-term health of their son.

With COVID-19 restrictions allowing just one person in the hospital at a time for visitation, Chief Dave Clark has spent every day at his son’s side, reading to him the outpouring of support that has come to the family courtesy in large part to a Facebook page created by Daryn’s mother Kerry called “Daryn’s Fight.” There, the family has been posting medical updates on Daryn, plus photos from the hospital. People in and around the community have made countless posts as well.

“I have said it before and I’ll say it again, this community is amazing! The support for Daryn and our whole family has been humbling to say the least,” said Dave. “Kerry nor I are originally from Wilton, but we chose Wilton as our hometown and were excited to raise our kids here. This is why. I absolutely cannot imagine how we could feel any more supported or protected. Daryn is a well loved kid, his friends have shown unwavering support and love for him.”

As for the immediate and/or long-term future, the Clarks are immersed in Daryn’s fight, dealing with hurdles as they arise.

“If I’m not here reading to Daryn, I’m just… reading. About everything that I feel will help me understand what my son is dealing with, and the challenges yet to come. I’ve read the statistics and about miracle recoveries, about treatment options, rehab facility reviews and complaints. I swear I’m going to be a brain injury specialist myself before this is all over,” said Dave. “I know I can’t control anything that has happened, but having some understanding of this helps me feel like I am in control of myself and how we proceed from here.”

A “Go Fund Me” page has been set up entitled “#Clarkstrong – Daryn Clark” that has raised $1,665 as of Dec. 27.

A prayer session was held at Wilton Elementary School the day after his accident, at the site of anti-bullying Buddy Benches that Daryn helped the school acquire when he was 12 years old.

The family, primarily Dave but including mom Kerry, brother Gannon and sister Jessica, has kept the public informed of Daryn’s days in the hospital, plus surgeries that have already taken place, on the “Daryn’s Fight” Facebook page. What follows are some excerpts from that page:

Update from Dave Clark on Dec. 21—He is still responding but he’s a little slow because of the amount of medication on board, but he flirts with opening his eyes at every neuro exam. At the beginning of this, the neuro team told me that we would likely see no activity for at least 72 hours because of the extent of his brain injury. We are currently at about 42 hours in and he’s flirting with opening his eyes. I’ll take that! We are still waiting for orthopedics to fix the rest of him, once that’s done they can take the “bolt” out that is monitoring his brain pressures and we can get to an MRI and look at his brain activity and see what, if any portions of his brain are permanently damaged …

The amount of support shakes me to the core every time. I read them to Daryn; all of your messages have made it to him. I watch his eyes flutter, especially when the messages are especially special to him. He listened to the prayer session you all held at his Buddy Benches last night, which was one of the most pronounced reactions he has had yet. He heard all of it. I’m not a person who really takes things on faith; I operate in a world of logic, reason and evidence. And guys I’m telling you he hears your messages, he has me convinced, and that is sometimes tough to do.

Update from Kerry on Dec. 22—They are doing the surgery to repair his pelvic fractures this morning. It is scheduled for approximately 2 1/2 hours. They also informed us he has a kidney laceration; we are told that will heal on its own. He will be receiving a one-liter blood transfusion prior to surgery.

Update from Dave on Dec. 23—We are no longer questioning whether he will live, but rather HOW he will live? So let’s start with the MRI results, He has a significant “Diffused Axonal” brain injury, which is primarily affecting his frontal lobe at the moment. He still has several pockets of blood and areas scattered around his brain that are damaged. The neurologists explained in great detail about which areas of the brain had been damaged and the likely outcome … The reason he is so agitated is because of the damage to his frontal lobe. It controls hyperactivity, reasoning, executive decisions and inhibitions … He just will not stay still, which is important because he just had pelvic surgery, he has five broken ribs, and his neck is still broken in two places, hence the sedation again.

So the obvious question I asked, will his brain heal? Answer: “It is possible, but more likely best case scenario is that his brain will compensate elsewhere for the damaged areas, but I can tell you we have at least a year before we can fully understand his capabilities or limitations. It all depends on him now.”

The accident

Update from Dave on Dec. 24—Now I’m going to talk about Daryn’s accident. While it is completely inconsequential to where we are now, I know you all love him and you are curious as to what exactly happened. Truth is we don’t know for sure, Jakob doesn’t remember much and Daryn’s not awake to tell us, so I went to the road for answers. No pre-conceived notions, no objective. Just an analytical mind and an accident reconstructionist hat on.

Let me start with this: Jakob said he doesn’t remember how fast they were going, he doesn’t think they were flying but they weren’t going slow either. He remembers going through the corners on Moscow Road and that the car was stable, level and not out of control. Jakob was on his phone and not really paying attention but he remembers a moment where Daryn says “Oh $%*&” and locks up the brakes and even grabbed the emergency brake.

Now back to the road. I went out there and walked the whole road, through the corners all the way to the place of impact. Consistent with what Jakob said, the corners show no striation, (drift marks) suggesting the car was not out of control. The “Oh $%*&” moment comes as the car exits the corner into the straightaway within the 1400 block of Moscow Road. This is where the brakes lock up, and move swiftly toward the shoulder where there is a disturbance in the gravel portion of the shoulder. At the point he applies the brakes, the car is directly centered in his lane. It is at this point I believe he overcorrects and while trying to come back on the road causing the car to slide into a 180 degree spin across the road. This is obvious as you can see the skid marks of all four tires as they slide across the road before the vehicle eventually leaves the road rear end first into the ditch on the west side of the road.

The car struck the ditch embankment backwards and with force. I believe from the pictures of the car that this is where Daryn was ejected. The pictures show the driver’s seat laying flat in a reclined position and he was found in the yard directly behind the point of impact, suggesting that at impact the inertia broke the seat and he went to the rear and was ejected through the hatchback. The car then rolls several times, coming to a stop further down the ditch, trapping Jakob inside. His seat was still upright and not broken. The top was crushed and Jakob needed to be extricated from the car, so Wilton Fire first attempted to remove the door but eventually cut the roof off the car to get him out…

I can only surmise that there was some external element on the road that night that caused his panicked slide to the shoulder and the resulting accident. A deer is most likely, a coyote, a cow or another car maybe. But in my experience, people lock them up like that out of avoidance or mechanical failure. I work on that car, and I can truly attest that it was kept in top-notch shape, so mechanical failure seems out. While accidents can happen to anyone at any time, he really is a phenomenal driver. He drives that car every day. Along with fire trucks, the ambulance, military vehicles … he can fly a plane! I don’t believe that he “just lost it” or that he over-drove the car.