Back in the Game
It was a horrific moment that no parent should ever experience and it was one that Devora Minnifield will never forget.
On March 16, 2012, just as she’d done dozens of times before, Devora left the family’s Allentown row home and was crossing the street with her two children, Maurice, 11, and Deja, 15, when an SUV turning the
corner spiraled out of control and hit a van waiting at the stop light. It then veered right, slamming into a parked car and pinning Devora and Maurice between that car and another that was parked in front. Devora saw Deja struck in the left thigh by a parking sign pole. But Maurice and Devora were wedged between the cars, leaving Devora helpless and panicking.
“We were both caught,” recalls Devora. “Maurice couldn’t move at all but I was able to get my leg out. I don’t remember much, just a lot of yelling and screaming to people to pull the car off my son.”
Devora used her cell phone to call her husband Maurice Sr., who was in Philadelphia, telling him about the accident and that their son was pinned between two cars. “Then, the phone went dead,” says Maurice Sr. “My mind is racing all over the place. I couldn’t get in touch with Devora, so I called Deja. I asked her, ‘Is he breathing?’ That’s all I wanted to know.”
Young Maurice was breathing and in fact had remained remarkably calm. “The first two minutes I didn’t feel any pain, because I didn’t realize what was happening,” says Maurice. ”Then I felt my blood get really warm and I wanted to go to sleep.”
It took about 20 minutes, but to Devora, it was an eternity before emergency rescue crews and police were able to get one of the cars moved and free Maurice. Mother, daughter and son were all taken to the emergency room where Maurice Sr. found them lying on gurneys.
Deja and Devora suffered relatively minor injuries compared to Maurice who needed immediate surgery on his left femur which was badly broken. Surgeons inserted a titanium rod in his leg. Maurice Sr. and Devora were both worried about lasting nerve damage to their son. Would he be able to resume the normal, active life of any 11-year-old boy? Would he walk with a limp? Would greater complications develop? These were just some of the questions they had as the time came for Maurice to be released from the acute-care hospital and to a rehabilitation inpatient unit. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was one option the Minnifields considered, but when a bed became available at the Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital Pediatric Unit in Bethlehem, a quick bit of research settled it – Good Shepherd it would be.
When Maurice arrived, he couldn’t put any weight on his left leg. He couldn’t flex his foot or ankle either. Pain was a major obstacle. “I remember him having severe pain, even just putting on a sock,” recalls Cindi Hobbes, a physical
therapist on the unit. “We had to work on his sensitivity before we could even work on walking.”
After 44 days as an inpatient at Good Shepherd, Maurice was cleared to go home on May 5, 2012. It had been a tough few weeks but Maurice was a champ. “He was walking with a cane when he left and one week later, he was back at school using a rolling walker,” says Devora.
Maurice became so attached to his therapists, he didn’t want to leave. “He kept referring to it as his home,” says Devora.
“I liked it there,” says Maurice. “All the nurses were nice and therapy was fun.”
Maurice still had a ways to go though as an outpatient. And, there were emotional scars as well as physical ones. “When Maurice first came from inpatient, his parents were concerned with his motivation and his post-traumatic stress,” recalls Amanda Kleckner, an outpatient physical therapist in the pediatrics program. “There were times he would show up for therapy 15 to 30 minutes late because he was afraid to get in the car because of the nature of his accident.”
Maurice was also nervous about putting more weight on his left foot. Pain and the memory of it still haunted him. Amanda and the other therapists worked to build up Maurice’s trust, in them and in himself.
“Amanda was amazing,” says Maurice Sr. “She was very attentive and very caring. She gave 100%. She learned his behavior and how he acts. She would energize him. And all the therapists were constantly on him, making sure he was on point.”
When Maurice’s therapists discovered he loved soccer and used to be a competitive hip-hop dancer, they allayed his fears of never returning to those activities by gradually working in soccer drills and running to build his confidence back.
“We knew we were going to have success when he beat his therapist in a race and did a victory break dance,” says Amanda. “His dad said that was the first time Maurice danced since the accident.”
Maurice’s therapy ended in the summer of 2013 after 48 weeks. Now 13 years old, and a student at Lehigh Valley Academy, Maurice has since regained his confidence and is doing the things he loves – playing soccer with the Allentown Youth Soccer League and advancing in mixed martial arts. He hopes to become a video game creator one day.
“Everyone at Good Shepherd was phenomenal,” says Maurice Sr. “We couldn’t ask for anything else.”