A Memory with Richie Morales

From the moment we met Richie and his family you could feel the positivity and love.  Not to mention his infectious smile!  We got to spend a great day filled with food and fun.  Our first stop was Maggiano's for a big family-style Italian meal.  Afterwards, we headed to Fenway Park to watch the Red Sox play the Blue Jays.  The game was filled with tons of food, laughs and excitement!

Richie's Story

My name is Paula Morales and I was a Full-time Medical Secretary and single mom of three kids before the accident. My youngest son Richie, 14 at the time of his injury, was a shy and quiet kid who had been accepted into Worcester Vocational Trade School. He was excited to get into an Auto Tech career. Richie had many interests ranging from baseball and WWF Wrestling, to his Xbox video game system. He was an extremely happy kid and in March 2006 his life took a different course of events that would forever alter his future. Richie was a passenger in my mother’s car, accompanied by his Aunt and two year old cousin. My Mother stopped at a yellow light going to Route 9 in Framingham, which she always did, when a box truck looking elsewhere slammed into her car, which flipped over and landed upside down. People ran to the scene to help. When they found Richie he wasn’t breathing; someone started mouth to mouth until a helicopter and ambulance arrived. Richie was rushed to emergency surgery to remove his skull because of swelling in his brain.

He was taken to UMass Medical Center where he was listed as critical condition and was put in the ICU for six weeks. During a meeting with doctors they gave him a 50/50 chance of survival. They couldn’t say how much damage there was because of the brain swelling, but they knew he was hit in the back of his brain stem and had lost tissue. The one positive thing they told me to hold onto was that he was young and still growing. Richie had a tracheostomy and feeding tube, and was later diagnosed with subsequent hemiparesis and cognitive impairment with paralysis on his right side. After six weeks in the hospital, Richie was transferred to Franciscan Rehab Hospital in Brighton, MA. Upon arrival he weighed 90 pounds and was back to a newborn baby’s state, unable to hold his head up on his own and in diapers. When I saw Richie I promised him that if he worked hard and didn’t give up that I would take him to Disney and he started to cry. The hospital and I would work every day for 5 months with Richie, and through his hard work he started getting stronger. His big brother Angel would stay on weekends to help out.  One day after visiting Richie, I get a tragic phone call that Angel had passed away at the age of 23. Doctors didn’t want me to tell Richie because they were concerned how it would affect his recovery. While I was helping Richie get better, I was also making funeral arrangement to bury my first-born son. After a month we told Richie his brother had passed away; he started to cry and that was the last time he ever cried.

The hospital had a meeting with me to discuss Richie’s condition. They said he was at the stage of a 2½ year old, which I refused to believe. After almost a year in rehab, Richie was discharged home and the feeding tube and trach were removed.  Richie got accepted to South High School for kids with a disability and continued with Memorial Rehab for about three years, five times a week. We had a meeting at school, and also with a doctor, where they told me Richie was at the stage of a six year old. I felt this diagnosis was more accurate than the 2½ year old diagnosis because I could see his progress. I was told Richie would not speak more than a few words, but I am a mom who would not settle for this and continued working hard with Richie.  I did what I promised I would do, and so I toilet trained him and worked with the rehab to start teaching Richie how to take a few steps with a hemiwalker. With all of this he still didn’t have movement on his right arm. Richie has gone through many surgeries, but he keeps getting stronger and improving in many ways. Even though he was in an electric wheelchair, I was able to take him to Disney like I promised.

During his senior year Richie was able to go to his prom and graduate in a cap and gown. Even though he was in a wheelchair, when it was his turn to get his diploma, he stood up to take it while smiling at everyone knowing that he made it.

My Goal for my son Richie is to have him walk 100% percent of the time. I want him to be able to do things without a wheelchair. Even though I was told Richie will never be able to live on his own, I will do my best to help him recover. He is a wonderful, smiling kid who continues to work hard to get better.  I am so proud of Richie Morales. He has come so far in life and continues putting that handsome smile on his face.