Benefit set for teen affected by fluWritten by Bailey G. Dick | | email@example.com
It’s the height of flu season, and many area residents are wondering if the virus will affect them. For one local family, the flu turned their life upside down.
Just a year ago, Max Clark was a typical teenager who loved to golf, bowl and play video games. When he came down with the flu, his family anticipated he’d recover within a few days.
“We didn’t think much of it,” said Max’s mother, Mary. “But the next day when we went to get him up for school, he was in a coma.”
Max was in a coma for four days, and stayed in the hospital for eight months. He was diagnosed with acute disseminates encephalomyelitis (AEDM), which doctors attributed to the influenza A virus.
“His body thought his brain was the virus, so his brain swelled up and put little cuts in it,” Mary explained. “Luckily, he started coming back one organ at a time and things started healing. The brain can heal itself, but it takes time.”
Max is still unable to walk, talk or take care of himself, and is confined to a wheelchair. Doctors say Max’s brain will heal over the next few years, and he is relearning skills like brushing his teeth and washing his face, and is beginning to sit and stand during therapy sessions. Before he became sick, Max had just completed his Eagle Scout project. He was a straight-A student who began taking post-secondary science and math classes at Owens Community College because he dreamed of becoming a pediatrician.
“We’re now home and doing all kinds of therapy to help Max recuperate and get back to normal life as a teenager,” Mary said.
But in the meantime, life isn’t back to normal for the Clark family. Mary, a single mom with three children, had to quit her job to be Max’s full-time caregiver. In addition to caring for her two younger children, she takes care of Max’s daily needs like feeding him through a g-tube in his stomach, shaving him, moving him into and out of his wheelchair with a special lift, and accompanying him to daily therapy sessions — a daily routine that takes four hours from start to finish.
The Clarks are currently dependent on a medical van to transport Max to and from his daily therapy sessions. They hope an upcoming benefit event will enable them to purchase a wheelchair accessible van to not only take Max to and from his therapy sessions, but to give them the chance to spend time as a family away from home.
“We’re hoping to be able to go to things as a family besides therapy and doctor visits. Max understands and comprehends things, so to get him out would be so nice,” Mary said.
Mary pointed out that the event isn’t just about them, but to raise awareness about the health issues her family — and other families like hers — are experiencing.
“Had we had our flu shots, maybe Max wouldn’t be quite so sick. We also want to bring awareness to people with brain injuries, and that those families are really in need too. It can happen to anybody, and there are so many people going through things like this,” Mary said. “You don’t think this could happen to you, but our life basically stopped and was turned upside down.”
The Have a Heart for Max Clark benefit will take place 11 a.m.-6 p.m Feb. 8 at The Center at Alternative Physical Therapy, 440 S. Reynolds Road, where Max receives treatment. In addition to a silent auction and raffle, guests can make a donation in exchange for services like yoga and Pilates classes, massages and Reiki sessions. Those who are interested but cannot attend the event can still make a donation via PayPal. The link can be found on the event’s Facebook page, “Have a HEART for Max Clark Benefit.”
Tags: cute disseminates encephalomyelitis (AEDM), Eagle Scout project., influenza A virus, Max Clark, Owens Community College, The Center at Alternative Physical Therapy, “Have a HEART for Max Clark Benefit”