Allen Wright came out of his coma.
The Fair Oaks teen who invented an Apple iPhone application called "A Note to God," awoke eight days after being struck by a hit-and-run driver on Sunrise Boulevard, his family and doctor said Tuesday.
At first, he could only stick out his tongue to answer questions. But late Tuesday, his father, Tod Wright, said Allen squeezed his hand and tried to give him a thumbs up.
"We're rejoicing," said Tod Wright, a truck driver who had asked the world to pray for his son using the app Allen created.
He dreamed up "A Note to God" when he was 16. He told The Bee in July 2009 that he had felt lonely and wanted to send a prayer, and he thought others would feel the same.
App developer MEDL Mobile, of Los Angeles, selected it from among 20,000 entries.
In the past week as Allen Wright's story spread across the Internet, more than 9,200 iPhone users have downloaded the app, offering hundreds of prayers for the teen and his family.
Citrus Heights police are investigating the hit-and-run. With few leads, they are enhancing security video from the area along Sunrise Boulevard, near Greenback Lane, where the teen was struck in the early morning hours of March 13. A family member found him in the median, curled in a fetal position.
He suffered a seizure and fell into a coma.
Doctors at first said he stood only a 30 to 40 percent chance of reviving. They induced a deeper coma to reduce brain swelling, and on Monday began to withdraw the coma-inducing sedatives.
Wright, 18, first opened his eyes late Monday, and he responded to questions and commands Tuesday by poking out his tongue one of the few gestures he can make right now.
Physicians called it an encouraging sign.
"Albeit it's just the slightest gesture, sticking a tongue out, but that says quite a bit," said Dr. Kavian Shahi, a neurosurgeon at Mercy San Juan Medical Center who has treated Allen Wright in recent days.
"One of the most important things we like to see from patients is whether they follow commands," Shahi said. "It indicates they can understand language and react to language. It takes a lot of brain power to do that."
Among the questions his father posed to the teen was whether he wanted an iPad, his sister, Amanda Hart, wrote in a journal about her brother on an "allenwright' site at caringbridge.org.
"My Dad said, 'Allen do you want an Ipad, if so stick out your tongue' boy did that tongue come out," she wrote.
He poked out his tongue at one point to indicate he was in severe pain, his father said.
Tod Wright said his son also stuck out his tongue when he and Allen's mother were leaving the hospital room. They took it as a sign he wanted them to stay.
"It meant, 'Don't go nowhere, Mom and Dad,' " Tod Wright said, fighting back tears. "I said, 'OK, buddy, we're not going nowhere.' "
Allen Wright, a Citrus Heights police cadet with dreams of joining the Marines, is likely to face a long road to recovery.
He has little motor control and shakes uncontrollably, his father said. His eyes are vague and unfocused, he said. Tubes in his throat prevent him from speaking.
Shahi said the teen's brain, which swelled after he was struck, would gradually heal. Until then it is important to prevent secondary infections, such as pneumonia, he said.
"As the healing continues, he will slowly gain more function of his extremities," Shahi said. "Slowly, hopefully, he will be able to move his arms and legs under his own control."
Asked whether Allen Wright's awakening may have been aided by the many prayers on his behalf, the neurosurgeon said he wasn't sure if prayer helped in such cases.
"Sometimes I think it does. Sometimes I think it doesn't," he said. "I don't actively encourage it. But in my opinion, it never hurts to pray."
HOW TO HELP
Allen Wright's family has created a fund to help in his recovery.
Mail checks to: Allen Wright's Foundation for a Better Life, Wells Fargo, 6047 Sunrise Blvd., Citrus Heights, CA 95610