Paralyzed in car accident, McIver's courageous battle to walk again is inspiration to Dulaney teammates


May 21, 1991|By Dave Glassman | Dave Glassman,Special to The Evening Sun

Andy McIver and his friends had a lot to look forward to later that Saturday afternoon, Nov. 3, 1990. They would be playing for Dulaney in the first round of the state Class 4A soccer playoffs.

As the five boys drove along Padonia Road around 11 that morning, McIver in the front passenger seat, they decided to see what lay at the end of a crude construction road and turned off.

When the four-wheel drive Jeep Cherokee came to the top of a hill, "The left front wheel slipped off into a ditch," said Evan Clarke, a passenger. "The vehicle started rolling to the left. As the driver overcorrected it, it rolled over to the right."

The boys aren't sure how many times the Cherokee rolled -- "It seemed like forever," Clarke said. But when it stopped, right side up, Andy McIver no longer was a soccer player and leadoff-hitting outfielder.

He was a quadriplegic.

The sun roof had caved in, striking his head and driving his chin down into his chest. The fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae in his neck were fractured, and the fifth one had moved completely out of alignment with the others -- a 100 percent dislocation, the doctors called it. The windshield post had collapsed, too, sending glass onto McIver and trapping him inside with his seat belt still on. No one else was hurt seriously.

"You could smell the mixture of dirt and blood," said Clarke, who minutes before had lost an argument with McIver over who would ride "shotgun."

John and June McIver were visiting their daughter Vera at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., for the weekend. About 2 p.m., as they were watching a football game, Vera was paged over the public address system. There had been an accident. Her brother, Andy, was in the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore.

The prognosis was "not good," June McIver said. "When the doctor met with us, he told us Andy would only move his shoulders. They were telling him that, but it never penetrated. He knew he was going to walk."

In the Dulaney locker room that afternoon before the game, there was talk of the accident. "The information I had was that he's critical and it looks like he'll be paralyzed from the neck down," said Lions coach Craig Laferty. "I sat 'em all down and told 'em what I knew." Options were discussed.

"To a man, each guy in the locker room wanted to play," Laferty said. "We prayed for Andy and got on the bus. On the bus they started putting tape with Andy's No. 9 on their arms."

Dulaney lost in overtime, 1-0, to Wootton that day. "They wanted to win it for Andy, but they knew they gave everything they could for him," Laferty said. "We decided we'd wait and not do anything as a team until Andy got back."

There was surgery that night, fusing together his broken vertebrae.

Brad Midgett, who had run from the accident to summon help, went to the hospital Sunday evening. Like others who escape injury in accidents, Midgett had confusing feelings. "At first I felt really bad because at times I felt if we could have spread the injuries around, none of us would have been really bad off," he said.

And his friend's paralysis was daunting. "At first I wouldn't believe it. It was one of the worst things in my life," he said. "I hoped some kind of miracle would happen."

It wasn't a miracle, but a stroke of genetic good fortune that allowed a turn for the better. Andy's spinal canal, where the spinal cord is located, was revealed to be larger than normal. Consequently, the cord had been bruised, resulting in paralysis, but not severed.

Few people have a large canal. "Based on memory and recollection, it's less than 5 percent," said Dr. William E. Staas, Andy's attending physician at Magee Rehabilitation Center in Philadelphia, where he was moved the day before Thanksgiving. "It did minimize the injury to his spinal cord."

"A couple of days after the operation I started to move my arms a little bit," Andy said. Those movements were actually small quivers and twitches in the muscles but, coupled with the return of some feeling, they meant there was hope.

"At Shock-Trauma he had feeling, but they didn't give us much hope," June said. "At Magee, they didn't know how far he would go, and still don't. They were hopeful that eventually he'd move his legs."

Andy's mother thought he might have gotten a bit down when he realized he'd be going to Philadelphia and staying for months, away from family and friends. But the support followed him up there.

Clarke, Midgett and Jeff Clary, who also was in the Jeep, drove up almost every weekend. Some Dulaney students even drove up after school and back the same weeknight. The McIvers, with Andy's 11-year-old brother Bobby to care for at home, went to Magee once during the week and again on weekends. "I had teammates, friends, old girlfriends," Andy said. "I got three or four letters every day, or cards. I had a neighbor who sent me a dollar every day and wrote a verse. I'd look forward to reading that."

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