BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. - It has been six months since Matthew Slattery suffered a traumatic brain injury after a tired trucker fell asleep at the wheel and barreled into his family's car on an Ohio interstate.
It is move out day from his around the clock care at Kennedy Krieger, the smile on his face evidence of progress.
Matthew is more responsive and aware.
Aware of the new home his father created to better care for him; aware of a life without his mother.
Progress from this kind of injury is not without pain both in reality and physicality.
"He is pretty expressive now...my boy is in there."
Ed Slattery continues to try and bring his boy out.; along the way not exactly knowing what Matthew retains or what he learns, small steps forward, but fearing the steps backward.
"Do I have to tell him his mother died over and over and over again? I don't know, I'm not going to until I have some reason to believe I need to. It's a really pretty tough hell."
The Slatterys and stories like theirs are beginning to resonate in Washington, DC. Currently truck drivers can drive 11 hours in a 14 hour shift. Advocates have been battling against that regulation for years and now there is a proposal on the table to shave that drive time by one hour and include breaks.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is holding public comment on the new regulations and will make its decision and set new law this summer.
For Ed Slattery, as incrementally painful as his son's progress is, he can only expect the same from the federal regulations he blames for his reality.
"It's just not fair that my family or 5000 other families who get killed every year in trucking accidents should bear the full burden of getting your products cheaper."
A burden for the Slattery's that could reach tens of millions of dollars; the lawsuit, while still active may move to mediation soon.
"Every smile, every tear is life to me. He's in there."
A life long battle now just six months in, its progress marked in hours on the road and restless nights.