Bucks student on long road to recovery after bus accident

Megan Cruz looks at her son, Matt. A bus accident left the Neshaminy student paralyzed.
Megan Cruz looks at her son, Matt. A bus accident left the Neshaminy student paralyzed. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 17, 2013

School is back in session for Matt Cruz, even if he won't be attending in person just yet.

The 16-year-old Neshaminy High School sophomore, who remains paralyzed from the chest down following a bus crash in Boston in February, said at a news conference Monday that this week was going to be his first hitting the books again, as he continues recovering from his injuries at Magee Rehabilitation Center in Center City.

Sitting next to his mother, Megan, who held his hand as he spoke, Cruz talked with reporters for the first time since the bus driving him and more than 40 others to Harvard University for a visit struck an overpass along a Boston road on Feb. 2, causing the roof to collapse.

Since then, Cruz - the most seriously injured passenger on the trip - has been an inpatient at Boston and Philadelphia hospitals as well as the rehab center. He said Monday that he is maintaining a positive outlook as he gains strength so that he can go home for the first time in more than two months.

"I'm building up my stamina and overall getting myself more healthy," he said, adding that he does about three hours of rehab per day.

Cruz, a runner at Neshaminy, had been intubated for weeks after the accident, unable to breathe on his own or speak, according to his doctor and Magee's chief medical officer, Guy Fried. Cruz's tracheostomy tube was recently removed, correcting those problems, and he is able to move his arms and is gaining strength in his shoulders as well.

"From a medical standpoint, he's at least starting to stabilize," Fried said.

Fried said he was hopeful that Cruz would be able to go home in a matter of weeks or months, and that Cruz is "doing better than I would've thought at this point," which he credited in part to Cruz's fitness, youth, and mental resiliency.

But he added that Cruz has "a long, long way to go" in his recovery, and that while there is always a possibility that he will regain the ability to walk, in the short term "it's not in the cards."

"We always leave room for hope," he said. "You never shut someone's hope away."

Cruz's home, according to his lawyers, Jim Ronca and Alan Schnoll, will have to be modified to accommodate his wheelchair: ramps will have to be built and the bathroom modified, and a van will have to be purchased.

As a result, a fund has been set up in his name, they said. Donations can be sent to the Bucks First Federal Credit Union, 2104 Bath Rd., Bristol, Pa. 19007.

A family friend, Juli Flynn, said in an e-mail last week that teenagers had begun planning a fund-raising event for the Cruz family, scheduled for 7 p.m. May 11 at Our Lady of Grace School gym in Penndel. Tickets will be available at the door for $10.

Matt Cruz said that the support he has received from the community "means a lot," and his mother said that he has so many visitors, he's rarely alone. Cruz said he was even visited by Adam Taliaferro, the Pennsylvania State University football player who recovered from a paralyzing injury on the field and now is a trustee of the school.

"He told me to stay positive," Cruz said.

Cruz, who had a Harvard pennant draped on the side of his wheelchair, was staying optimistic. He said he loved his visit to the school, despite the accident afterward, and would love to attend someday.

His doctor said Cruz would make a fine addition.

"To the extent he gets through Magee, I think Harvard would be lucky to get ahold of him," he said.

Contact Chris Palmer, 609-217-8305, cpalmer@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter, @cs_palmer

comments powered by Disqus