Bicyclist hit by motorist last August still bedridden;
relearning to talk, use arms
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By B. Scott Mohr
Thirteen-year-old Alec Volz is a proven fighter, and that’s a good thing because he faces months, possibly years of painful physical therapy, in addition to speech and occupational therapy.
Little Alec was a typical happy-go-lucky child when he and older brother Matthew, then 16, were riding their bikes home from a church carnival last August.
But life as Alec knew it would never be the same after being struck by a car. Matthew knew it was bad and immediately called 911 and his father, Mark Volz, who arrived on the scene and followed the ambulance to Riley Hospital for Children, where he stayed with his son day-in and day-out for four months.
Although no charges have been filed against the motorist – distractive driving or vehicular homicide are possible – there’s an ongoing investigation, said Mr. Volz, who added that the lady was allegedly taking pictures while cruising along Southeastern Avenue near Nativity Grade School.
He credits a nurse, Casey Cummins, with saving Alec’s life. “If she had not been there until the paramedics arrived, I believe he would have died.”
Mark was met at the hospital by his former wife, Kim Volz, and the two of them were forced to watch their son fight for his life while he had five tubes in his head. Five teams of specialists worked on him during the first 24 hours, eight within the first 72 hours.
“It was a life-threatening situation for 2 1/2 weeks,” the Volzes said. “Alec was unconscious and on a ventilator.”
All of those doctors have worked with and watched Alec for months, including the six weeks he was in intensive care.
Alex’s right leg was severely injured, and the Volzes were informed that it might have to be amputated above the knee.
“We were shocked!” said Ms. Volz. “But we trusted the doctors’ expertise, and they requested to save it. The surgery went better than expected, but he had a lot of hardware inside and out holding his leg together. There weren’t high expectations that it would be fully functional later in life. After several months, infection set in and there was no choice but to take the leg in November. We are optimistic that with a few more surgeries and a lot more therapy he’ll be able to walk on a prosthesis, but we don’t know how far.”
And while Alec – a shell of his old bubbly self – had regained consciousness, it wasn’t until April that he began to understand what had happened, but he still had not relearned how to speak or have control of his head, torso and limbs.
His first word wouldn’t come for another three months, but it was worth the wait to Ms. Volz.
When he uttered “Mom” in late July, it was pure joy for Ms. Volz. “Oh my God!” she exclaimed. “I cried. I was a blubbering mess. I think that was the most amazing thing I have ever heard.”
While Ms. Volz thought she had hit the moon, or maybe Mars, Mr. Volz was a little more subdued because Alec lives with him, and the two of them had been working hard on his English skills.
“There was a lot of joy in getting him to talk,” said Mr. Volz, who added that his son’s language skills are improving every week. “He’s very interactive with us. He tries to repeat everything we say, but his enunciation is not real clear.”
Alec has regained some of his mental faculties and can follow a TV show, but he’s not too hep about the upcoming occupational and physical therapy sessions. And his schedule will get even more rigorous when in-home schooling starts, which could be any day. A teacher from Franklin Township Schools will meet with him for 30 minutes a week, and he will have three 30-minute therapy sessions weekly.
Mr. Volz, who is employed by Stroud Auto, hopes that Alec will attend Franklin Township Middle School East in January.
Still bedridden, Alec can’t roll over in bed but is gaining more control of his left arm. He cannot drink on his own and is still fed through a tube, but he is beginning to eat small amounts of solid food.
Needless to say, the past year has presented the family with some trying times.
Matthew Volz, who attends Southport High School, doesn’t talk much about what happened. He still has the shirt he was wearing on that dreadful day, but he doesn’t wear it anymore because of the bad memories it stirs up.
He and Alec’s twin sister, Amber, have received counseling, and she didn’t want to start the eighth-grade at Southport Middle without her brother.
“I’ve come close to several nervous breakdowns,” said Ms. Volz. “It’s been devastating. It’s been more than what I thought I could handle. At times I wondered if Alec would make it or ever speak again. I had to hang in there for the other kids. But through it all, I have a renewed sense of faith and hope. Every day is getting easier for us, but Alec is going to face some trying times with therapy.”
If Mr. Volz has experienced any depression throughout the ordeal, he hasn’t shown it, said Ms. Volz. “He has had the most positive outlook throughout the past year. No matter how grim the situation was, he always had a great attitude. I don’t know how he did it. He never left the hospital. It had to be killing him seeing his son like that.”
“I refused to give up,” Mr. Volz said. “I was told I would have a vegetable (for a son). The doctors told me four times that they could pull the plug.”
“But that was not an option,” Ms. Volz stated. “I know he will never be the same,” Mr. Volz acknowledged, adding that he really hasn’t had time to grieve his loss. “We can only speculate on what his full recovery will be; there are limits; there are too many unknowns at this point. I really haven’t had time to grieve my loss.”
In addition to crediting Cummins for saving his son’s life, Volz was extremely impressed with the trauma team and the intensive care unit at Riley Hospital for Children for keeping his son alive. “Those doctors are some of the best in the world. They are devoted to those kids.”
Although insurance has paid for a lot of Alec’s bills, the out-of-pocket expense for Volz has grown to a point that he knows he can never repay it. “It’s astronomical; I can never work long enough to pay back what’s owed.”
In an effort to put a minuscule dent in those bills and to pay for Alec’s ongoing needs, the Volzes and their friends are hosting a car wash from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at the McDonald’s at Madison and Edgewood avenues.
The outpouring of kindness from the community has overwhelmed the family. “We had a whole lot of help at Christmas; the support was phenomenal,” Mr. Volz said. “We want to thank everyone.”
Let’s hope that wonderful giving spirit is alive and well at the car wash.