HUNTINGTON BEACH – The week, days and hours before the accident
are hazy.
Mark Bouvier doesn't remember much from the July night more than a year
ago, but he doesn't really need to.
Mark of Huntington Beach is focused on the future – learning to walk again,
regaining his strength and hoping one day to be able to play with his son as
he envisioned he would.
Bouvier was in a serious car accident almost 3 years ago in Huntington
Beach when a driver hit four other cars, went airborne and landed on top of
his pregnant fiancée's car. He suffered major brain trauma and lost
functionality on the left side of his body. His condition is similar to
someone who suffered a stroke, he said.
After two months in the hospital at UCI, Bouvier's doctors and therapists
were unclear whether he would fully recover. Powered by an unwavering
sense of humor and support from his family, Bouvier is making progress.
He goes five days a week to Progressive Strength Recovery in Irvine, but
funds for his therapy are running low. So his family and friends are stepping
up and looking for community support to help him stay on his recovery path.
"Mark has been making progress in the last couple, but he still has a long
ways to go,'' said his mom, Nancy Johnson. "But with support and help from
his friends and family, we are confident he will get back his independence.
"I have faith that Mark will recover and someday be able to surf, paint,
play his guitar, and hold his son with both arms,'' she said.
Now, more than a year after the accident, Bouvier discussed how it forced
him to re-learn, and appreciate, the simple things in life.
The accident
Bouvier and his pregnant fiancée, Sarah Stephen, were sitting at a red light
at Bolsa Chica Street and Heil Avenue on the night of July 9, 2009.
They didn't see it coming, the car flying from behind. The impact sounded
like being inside a trash compacter, said Sarah, who was driving.
Bouvier said he retains clips from after the impact, memories that float in
and out to offer a snippet of the night.
He remembers the roof being torn off, then nothing. He remembers
someone putting a blanket over him to protect him from the glass, then
He tried to speak but it came out jumbled, he said. He could think of what
he wanted to say but it was as if his body did not want to cooperate.
Bouvier was taken to UCI Medical Center and his fiancée was taken to
Western Medical Center in Santa Ana. She didn't have any severe injuries
and her baby was fine.
Waking up
Bouvier had suffered severe brain trauma to his right hemisphere, which
affected the left side of his body. He was put in an induced coma for 10
days and underwent two surgeries – one to remove a chunk of his skull to
accommodate his swelling brain and the other to put the piece back.
And when he woke up, 'it felt like a really bad hangover," he said. The
entire left side of his body was paralyzed from his face to his feet.
But, even after learning of his situation, he tried to keep it light. The
doctors and nurses, however, didn't always share in his prankster sense of
humor, he said. In one instance, he handed the nurse a cup with his daily
urine sample, only instead of urine, he filled the cup with orange juice.
"They ordered me a psych evaluation," he said. "They did that twice while I
was there."
Bouvier was released from the hospital on Sept. 25, 2009, just a couple of
weeks before his son, Jack, was born. He made it in time to cut the
umbilical cord on his first child.
"They rolled me in just minutes before he was born," he said.
Bouvier underwent therapy at UCI but progress was slow. He began to walk
with the assistance of parallel bars but could not stand on his own. Doctors
and nurses told him they were unsure if he would fully recover.
For the guy who loved to surf and skateboard, the diagnosis was
He left the hospital's therapy program after a family friend told him about
Irvine-based Progressive Strength Recovery, a special needs therapy
center that specializes in patients with brain injuries.
Bouvier hoped he would find a method that would restore him to his old self
and possibly a therapist who would grasp his sense of humor. He found both.
Bouvier works an hour a day with special needs strength trainer Tom
Wisenbaker. Bouvier's previous therapy consisted of doctors telling him it
was necessary to retain the functionality he currently has but Wisenbaker
is pushing to wake the muscles that have been dormant for so long.
"We're not the least bit interested in what he's got left," Wisenbaker
said. "We want more."
Wisenbaker works every muscle of Bouvier's left side; he pedals his legs,
extends his arms and offers resistance training to strengthen the muscles.
He gets tough with Bouvier and encourages him to push harder but, more
importantly, he laughs at his jokes.
"They get me here," Bouvier said.
The session ends with Bouvier walking across the room. He uses a cane and
his steps are slow and deliberate. His son Jack, now 11 months old, teeters
along side of him; he too is learning to be sure of his footing.
"This is the first time I've seen noticeable improvements," Bouvier said.
"It's a lot more tiring than anything I've ever done before."
Bouvier is focused on getting to a place where he can ride a wave or a
skateboard again but, more importantly, he wants to be able to play with his
"More than the leg, I want the use of my arm and hand," he said. "I'd love
to be able to play with (Jack). I don't really get a lot of time with him."
Bouvier's medical costs are $1.8 million so far and he has yet to see any
money from the insurance company since the accident. He said he is
expecting to get a $100,000 settlement, which will barely put a dent in his
mounting bills.
"I'd be surprised if I got $10,000," he said.
His family and friends are holding the fundraiser to keep Bouvier on his
training course at PSR. Each session costs $150, which is significantly
cheaper than going to the hospital for therapy but still is a lot for Bouvier
to come up with alone.
Click on the RIGHT to make a donation
to Mark's Therapy
Read Mark's Story
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