Pam Surano, 50, from Pittsburg, Pennslyvania, was at Mass on August 30 when she received an incoming call from her daughter, Mary Maloney.
She shut off the alert to focus on her service. She thought she would call the 13-year-old back when she was through but after Mary kept calling — Sureno knew something was wrong. Mary had been jumping on the trampoline in the backyard and had an accident. And Surano knew something was off by the sound of her daughter’s voice.
“Mary’s voice was different,” she told Today. “She said she had an accident and ‘I can’t move my legs.’”
Mary had recently had taken an interest in gymnastics and was practicing flips when she fell.
“She’s very acrobatic, extremely athletic. She does every sport imaginable,” Surano explained.
And while the trampoline’s safety net kept Mary from falling on the ground, Surano told KDKA, Mary landed on her head and neck during a flip and snapped her neck.
“To be honest, she was probably doing everything parents warn their kids not to do alone,” the mom went on.
At first, Mary thought it was just a small twist in her back and went inside to sit down. But when the pain would not go away — she thought a hot bath might help. But she was wrong.
“She had a harder time getting out of the bath,” the mom recalled to Today. “It increasingly felt worse.”
Mary then went to lie down — only to realized she could not move at all.
She then called out for her father, who was in the house at the time and managed to get her into the car, rushing her to UPMC Passavant. Mary’s condition was so serious that she was unable to move the lower half of her body — she could not feel anything and she couldn’t even wiggle her toes.
“They put her in a wheelchair. She threw up all over herself and fell forward like she lost all ability to sit up,” Surano recalled. “From then, it was just a series of nightmares.”
But a CT scan and an MRI did not give the doctors any more clues.
“They were completely perplexed because it showed everything perfect and normal from the brain to the spinal cord,” Surano recalled. “There was not a contusion, not a blood bleed, not a fracture, nothing was wrong.”
Doctors then used steroids and blood pressure medicine to treat Mary. And two days later, they ran the scans once again.
“That’s when it showed the spinal stroke,” Surano said. “(In) the area that controls the legs and the feet.”
Mary spent a total of six days in the intensive care unit before being moved to a rehabilitation unit. She is paralyzed from her mid-chest down but doctors are not sure if the condition is permanent.
“If you touch her thigh or her leg or her foot, she can feel you touching them,” Surano explained to Today. “That’s a big win and we’ll take it.” And while it will take Mary a long time to fully recover, Surano says her daughter is keeping her spirits up.
“They also say that her positive attitude, incredible spirit, her hard work is powerful and all of that is going to lend itself to the healing process,” the mom said. “We’ve been overwhelmed with prayers that have turned the tide for us. Mary told me to make sure that people know she will walk again. It’s because of God,” Surano said. “She would not be where she is now if it weren’t for the prayers.”
Surano wants to share her story so other parents will be cautious when letting their kids play on the trampoline. The mom went as far as to say that after Mary’s experience, she does not “advocate anyone to use the trampoline.”
“I almost wonder, and I’m certainly not a medical expert, if the trajectory of the body, it’s just not meant to do that,” she added.
But at the very least, she urges that children should never be on the trampoline alone and should always use it with at least one caregiver present. “Make sure that they’re not doing any sort of somersaults or flips or anything that increases the likelihood of them coming down wrong on their head or neck,” she said.
A GoFundMe page was also created to help pay for Mary’s hospital bills and has since raised over $90,000.
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.