KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Keith Welch, Knoxville man who was hit by a vehicle while riding his bike Saturday, June 4, is awake and preparing to transfer to the inpatient rehabilitation next week, according to his wife.

Welch, 49, was placed in the ICU after a driver hit him head-on on Central Street near Willow Avenue and fled the scene. He was suffering from traumatic brain injury.

His wife said the hospital took out Welch’s trach earlier this week and he is starting to speak.

“He is awake, and alert at times, engaging with eye contact,” Welch’s wife said. “He will be headed to inpatient rehabilitation next week. We aren’t sure how long he will be there.”

Welch’s wife added there’s a possibility that he may need surgery on his ankle and his bone flap will be surgically placed back in within the next three months. He still has some swelling and inflammation.

“He recognized me and called me by my name yesterday for the first time since this happened,” Welch’s wife said. “He seems to understand he can’t remember things he feels like he should know.”

The family was told that after Welch attends inpatient rehab, he will go to a skilled nursing facility to continue therapy.

“We have a very long road ahead of us, but we celebrate everything no matter how big or small. We are so thankful it could have been much worse,” his wife said.