When Candy Otter recounts her eldest son’s remarkable recovery from a violent downtown Austin attack more than two weeks ago, she can’t help but focus on their “many blessings.”
Shortly after Ole Miss senior Carson Otter was critically injured near the Sixth Street entertainment district, the Bloomington, Ind., family was flooded with help from friends and strangers alike in Austin, Mississippi and elsewhere.
And Candy Otter says there were other miracles along the way: a University of Texas student who rushed to Otter’s side after the attack, a Level I trauma center a few blocks away and Otter’s life-saving medical team.
“We focus on the gratitude and the answered prayers,” she said. “God really performed miracles through us.”
The Sept. 14 incident garnered national attention, sending social media abuzz with words of support for 21-year-old Carson Otter and triggering a fundraising effort for the family. The Ole Miss alumni association organized family meals and transportation.
The night before he was slated to attend the football game between Ole Miss and Texas, Otter was assaulted about 2 a.m. near the intersection of East Seventh and Trinity streets after visiting downtown with friends.
Otter has said he can’t remember the attack, his mother said, possibly because of the traumatic brain injury he suffered and short-term memory challenges he has suffered since the incident.
Moments after the assault, UT student Blake Bender, a junior studying exercise science, rushed to Otter’s side as a friend called 911.
Bender has since made frequent visits to check on his new friend and spend time with his parents and family.
“He stepped in and helped save Carson’s life,” Candy Otter said. “He’s become a dear person to us.”
Bender said he saw Otter’s head strike a curb. He then checked his pulse, applied pressure to the wound and stabilized his head, as he had learned in training for injury evaluation.
“There were countless other people there on the phone with 911 and asking me what they could do to help,” Bender said. “I just wanted to make sure not to move his head and that nobody tried to move him.”
Bender said Otter had been by himself and appeared to be a UT student: Otter was not wearing Ole Miss apparel and the collar on his shirt was orange.
Otter was taken to University Medical Center Brackenridge, a Level I trauma center, where he was placed in a medically-induced coma, underwent emergency brain surgery and put on a ventilator.
“It was one of the worst phone calls I could get,” said Candy Otter, who quickly flew to Austin. “But God sustained us.”
The days that followed were filled with messages of hope, she said: phone calls of support from the Ole Miss community, including the football coach, and Carson beginning to breathe on his own, opening his eyes and a short time later, talking and walking.
Six days after he was hospitalized, Otter was released to begin work at the Central Texas Rehabilitation Hospital, which specializes in brain injuries. For about 10 days, Otter worked with his medical team on speech, cognitive and physical therapy and made even more significant strides, his mother said.
On Wednesday, he will head home to Bloomington, with his family to complete his recovery there, Candy Otter said.
“I really got to get to know him,” Bender said, “and we talked about our fraternities, majors, our families, and everything you would talk about with a friend you’ve known for a while. … Carson is an amazing kid and now a great friend of mine — and will be for the rest of my life.”
Austin police said they continue to investigate the case, but there have been no arrests. Anyone with information on the incident can contact Crime Stoppers at 512-472-8477 or Detective Kerry Stanley at 512-974-6873.
The family is also accepting donations to help defray medical costs through a Carson Otter charity fund at Regions Bank.