On November 30th, 2017 an eighteen wheeler tractor trailer rear ended my Dad and his friend/co-worker Tony on the NJ turnpike. They were on their way to work for NJ Transit in North Jersey. The tractor trailer hit the back driver side of Michael's small Hyundai Accent and sent it into a spin. The second collision happened when the cab of the tractor trailer ran over the front end of the Michael's car setting it aflame. Tony was left conscious and thankfully unscathed. Michael was knocked unconscious by the impact and pinned in his driver's seat while his car burned around him.
On November 30th, 2017 my dad's friend Tony saved his life. With the help of a good samaritan, Tony pulled him from the driver's seat and out of the passenger side of his burning vehicle and to safety on the side of the road. On November 30th, 2017 my dad Michael did not die thanks to Tony but his life and the lives of our family and close friends were forever changed.
On December 1st, 2017, my sister Jenny's 30th birthday, we learned that my dad had suffered an incomplete spinal cord severe at his C5 vertebrae. For those of you who don't know the spine, that’s the knobby part at the base of your neck. I will NEVER forget the words from the ortho surgeon who stabilized his neck. "I have never seen so much damage to a spinal cord without a complete severe. I don't know how he is alive."
But that surgeon doesn't know my dad. So let me tell you about my dad Michael. My dad Michael is a fighter. He has survived 4 different types of cancer, he is surviving as rock for my mother who was diagnosed with endometrial cancer 2 months after his accident, and now he is surviving as a quadriplegic with more resilience and gratitude than I have ever seen. While he has lost so much; he cannot eat on his own, speak without the tracheostomy that was performed after his accident, hold a phone, walk, sit on his own or even scratch his own nose he has never once complained. He continues to fight everyday. His witty sense of humor is stronger than ever and his gratitude and love for life is unwavering. When asked, he will tell you that his daughters keep him going. My dad Michael did not die on November 30th, 2017 because he will fight with everything he has for his family and his family is not ready to give him up.
While we have come a long way in just three short months since his accident, the road ahead of us is long and bumpy and hard. As we begin to prepare to transition Michael back home for the first time since the accident this is becoming scarily clear. Perhaps one of the biggest hardships my family will face is financial. Even with health insurance the cost of Michael's every day vital care is astronomical. His most immediate needs include a handicap accessible vehicle so that he can be transported safely to doctors, a hospital bed, a manual wheelchair, a motorized wheelchair (they're 20,000 by the way, that's more than my car) a hoyer lift to transfer him from bed to chair, to shower, etc, a shower chair and a portable suction unit which makes it so that Michael does not aspirate.
My family and I are so very thankful for the love and support we have received and continue to receive since my dad's accident. There are no words really. Thank you for giving your time to read my dad Michael's story. I hope it makes you smile and I hope it makes you think. I'll end with one of my dad's favorite quotes. "The most precious thing in life is time."
- Kathy Cahill Mathews
- phil melito
- Patti Greco-Iwanicki
- Christine Keleshian
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