TAMPA, Florida - Pasco County Sheriff's Deputy Darren Hill does not remember the head-on crash that nearly took his life early in the morning of New Year's Day.
"First thing I remember is being in the ER when they started putting traction on my leg," said Hill in his first interview following the crash. "First thing I can remember thinking is, 'This is the most painful thing in the world.'"
The 29-year-old deputy woke up unsure if he'd walk again, with doubts he'd return to the job he loved.
"Because all the bones are shattered they can't really set the bone. So they have to pull the foot away from the hip as far as they can. They have to fully extend the leg and hold it there with weights," Hill said.
The 29-year-old originally from Pasco County wasn't always in law enforcement. Out of college, he spent a year teaching English in Korea before earning a master's degree related to his first love -- video games.
He would later go on to team up with friends, spending their own spare time to create a video game of their own called Flight Rising.
"We thought it would be a little novelty item, but it's much larger than any of us imagined it would be."
With 40,000 regular users, the game now generates enough money that Hill was able to begin construction on a new house.
But money and video games was never enough for Hill. It was ultimately his love for helping others that drew him home to Pasco County, where he took a lower paying job as a deputy sheriff.
"It's what calls to me," said Hill. "It's what I want to do. It's where I was born. It's where I want to make a difference."
Deputy Hill was never naive about the potential dangers involved with police work.
"I knew what I was getting into. I knew something, someday, could happen to me. I never thought it would be a head-on collision."
He said the idea of helping others always made the risk seem worth taking.
"It's the people, the victims," Hill says of his love for law enforcement. "It's helping them, finding who hurt them, who stole from their house. It's what it's all about."
On New Year's morning, it was Deputy Hill who needed help, trapped inside his Pasco County cruiser after a hit and run crash.
The sheriff's office said Hill was semi unconscious, but somehow managed to hit an emergency button equipped on his radio.
"I was told there was a person, when the crash happened, who ran up to the car and held my hand and stayed with me until backup arrived," Hill said he was told by friends in the hospital. "That means a lot to me. Somebody out there cared that much."
Doctors say it will be weeks before he can walk again, but Hill said he has no hesitation when it comes to returning to the job he loves.
"I've gotten hurt. I'm going to recover. I'm going to go back out there. I'm going to help people and I'm going to stick with it. It's going to be a long road to recovery, but I'm going to get back out there."
When asked about his goals for the future, he plans on running and passing all the physical tests required by deputies, but said his dream job would be working as a detective, perhaps working on computer crimes.
Until then, he looks forward to returning home after three long weeks in the hospital.
"I'm going to play some video games with my brothers. That's absolutely the first thing I'm going to do."
Doctors had hoped he would be released on Wednesday, but Tampa General Hospital has since said Hill will not be going home today.