Imagine your spouse suffers a severe spinal cord injury in a car accident. The doctor tells you the chance of your spouse walking again is maybe 5 percent. In store for your family is months of inpatient care and rehabilitation in an out-of-state facility, while you’re on unpaid leave from work with two young children at home.
For Kasia DeFilippo, a nurse on the seventh floor of the UConn Health Center’s John Dempsey Hospital, that’s how her world changed earlier this year.
Yet she calls herself “blessed.”
The accident happened on May 6, when Mark DeFilippo and the couple’s then-5-year-old son, Matthew, were driving home from kindergarten orientation. Matthew escaped serious injury. His father suffered fractures of his C4 and C5 vertebrae and was paralyzed from the neck down.
For nearly the last four months, Kasia’s husband has been at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, N.J. It’s about a 130-mile drive from home. He’s a self-employed home builder who’s been unable to work.
Kasia went on family medical leave, her paid time off exhausted. A household without steady income faces the additional challenges of finding a more accessible home and vehicle on top of child care for two young boys.
It didn’t take long for her coworkers on the seventh floor to spring into action. Nurse manager Dawn Tranter started appealing to her staff to consider donating vacation time.
“When I started to get responses, I was surprised to see that they were from employees whose names I did not even recognize,” Tranter says. “The power of word of mouth assisted our efforts to help Kasia and her family.”
Then came a barbecue to raise money to help the DeFilippos with their expenses.
“Employees not only donated money and hours, but they also donated things for the barbecue. You name it, they brought it,” Tranter says. “I could not believe the amount of support that UConn employees and coworkers have provided to Kasia and her family during this time.”
Kasia describes the benefit as an “overwhelming abundance of generosity.”
“From staff donating their vacation time so I can stay paid during my leave of absence; donating money, raffle items, food, games, bouncy house, and band and so much more… We were overwhelmed by how our community responded,” she says. “Special thanks to Farmington Lions Club, Farmington Police Department, Farmington Fire Department, Sanford and Hawley, Coldwell Banker, Prudential, and Richard and Jane Lublin. God continually surrounds us with awesome people as we grow stronger with this journey to recovery. We are truly blessed!”
Two months to the day of the accident, more than 300 people turned out for the barbecue at the Lions Club in Unionville.
“The Farmington Police Department volunteered their time, a nurse from Oncology 6 donated a bouncy house and Diane from Surg 7 donated a live band,” Kasia DeFelippo says. “When I walked in, there were so many people, I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of generosity. It was just amazing.”
The event raised more than $13,000.
“It made me feel so proud of our UConn supporters,” Tranter says.
“I am truly grateful and so proud to be part of such an incredible group of people,” Kasia wrote in an email to those who helped make the benefit possible. “You have given us the opportunity for me to be able to stay with Mark in his room Monday-Friday. What a difference this has made on Mark’s recovery… I owe it all to you!”
She says her husband is making progress and his chances for walking have improved.
“He won’t stop,” she says. “He tells the therapists, ‘You guys need to push me.’”
A charity golf tournament is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 30, at the Farmington Woods Golf Course in Avon. Those interested in supporting the 2013 DeFilippo Open can view the registration form or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone wishing to make a donation to the family can send a check to:
Attn: The DeFilippo Fund
32 Main Street
Farmington, CT 06032