http://chnonline.org/news/local/11527-racine-couple-experiences-outpouring-of-love.htmlRacine Couple experiences outpouring of love
Written by Karen Mahoney, Special to your Catholic HeraldThursday, 27 September 2012 09:32
Amy and Dan DeMatthew are pictured in their newly renovated kitchen. (Submitted photos courtesy Paul Davis Restoration & Remodeling)
“If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it,” states the plaque above Dan and Amy DeMatthew’s fireplace. Since Dan’s bicycle accident in August 2009, that left him wheelchair bound and living with quadriplegia, the Racine couple has witnessed God’s hand nearly every step of their journey.
Although both were accustomed to years of volunteering their time, talents, and treasures to serve their community, St. Catherine’s High School, and their parish, St. Patrick Catholic Church, neither expected the outpouring of love from those wanting to serve them.
Touched by the couple’s positive attitude, courage and story, Paul Davis Restoration & Remodeling of Southeast Wisconsin was the latest to offer much needed assistance. Like a scaled down version of TV’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition, the company donated time, labor and materials to update the DeMatthew’s kitchen to make it easier for Dan to navigate in his motorized wheelchair.
The project included demolition of the kitchen and removal of cabinets, countertops, flooring, and preparation for installation and construction work. The project has a sustainability theme with recycled cabinetry from another residence going into the new kitchen, reuse of stone countertops and donating the DeMatthew’s existing countertops and cabinets to Habitat Restore in Racine.
According to Allen Degner, Marketing Representative for Paul Davis Restoration, the month-long project included reconfiguring the kitchen’s layout to make it easier for Dan to maneuver.
“We wanted to add a double oven so there was a lower one that Dan could use, and place a microwave within reachable distance for him as well,” he said. “We wanted to give him an accessible workspace and desk that he can wheel up to, and we wanted to give them a dishwasher to make cleaning up easier for him as well.”
After reading the DeMatthew’s story in Your Catholic Herald, Meg Boyle, one of the owners, as well as Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Paul Davis Restoration thought it would make a good project for the company’s annual Restoring America Program. For the past decade, the program is an annual home improvement initiative designed to help those who cannot afford to or are physically unable to fix up their homes.
The DeMatthew family kitchen underwent a big transformation last year, thanks to the generosity of Paul Davis Restoration. With the renovation, Dan DeMatthew, who was injured in a 2009 bicycle accident, can more easily navigate in his motorized wheelchair. The original kitchen is shown above. (Submitted photo courtesy Paul Davis Restoration & Remodeling)
“Paul Davis Restoration & Remodeling of Southeast Wisconsin participates in ‘Restoring America,’ because we truly believe we can make a difference in the quality of a person’s life by making much-needed home repairs,” explained Boyle. “Once we chose the DeMatthew’s family as our recipients, we received commitments of labor and materials from our valued venders and trades people. They were all ready to help.”
Unlike their previous volunteer projects, renovating the DeMatthew kitchen took on a personal element for Boyle, who has fond memories as Amy’s classmate at St. Joseph Grade School in Wauwatosa.
“We have reconnected after losing touch for a while,” she said. “Amy comes from a large family and we kind of grew up together. From their parents, they all learned to embrace their Catholic faith, and have committed their lives to giving back to their church, school, and community. Their parents were so active in the parish and even though they have since moved to Libertyville, continue to give back to this day. I recently met up with Amy’s mom and I was touched when she showed me her prayer book that she has carried with her for years.”
Despite the connection to the DeMatthew family, Boyle knew their situation was perfect for the company’s belief in giving back to the community. Each year, the company’s philanthropic efforts touch the lives of families and non-profit organizations.
“I came across this story and whether I knew Amy and Dan or not, it was a heartfelt story about a couple who have gone through tragedy. They needed work done at their house to make it more accessible for their husband,” Boyle explained. “The side story was great because I knew Amy from my past. They are a great family and it was just for someone like this, that we want to be giving back—and it is a great feeling to be able to do this.”
While they are grateful for the help, the many volunteers working in their home are humbling to Amy and Dan. Nearing the two-year anniversary of the accident, the couple continues to be overwhelmed by the compassion of others.
“We have always been in the state that others need more than us and were used to being the ones to help others,” said Amy. “And like Dan has said, ‘we have been so fortunate through all of this.’ It’s incredible that there are so many people like Meg Boyle and her brother, Paul Davis, who are so giving and willing to help us out. We feel very blessed that people are doing stuff for us to make our lives so much easier.”
Since Dan’s accident, which resulted in cervical fusion, he underwent surgery to implant an intrathecal Baclofen pump to help with the chronic muscle spasms in his neck, as well as additional surgery to alleviate herniated disks in his lower back. Through physical therapy, acupuncture, yoga, massage therapy and chiropractic care, Dan has begun walking a bit with the aid of crutches.
“There has been a lot of gain, the back surgery set him back a bit, but he has become more independent with the pump and the surgery,” said Amy, adding, “He has an unbelievably great attitude. He wants to keep getting better and be less dependent on others.”
Since Amy has returned to her job as a physical therapist at Wheaton Franciscan Hospital, she has needed to rely on sons Joe, 29 and Jaime, 23, as well as other volunteers to assist Dan at home, and bring him to his medical appointments. With the addition of the remodeled kitchen, it gives Dan another step towards independence.
“He will be able to do some cooking, and dishes and just be more functional at home,” explained Amy. “He wants to work harder to live and work in a normal environment and live as normal a life as possible. This new kitchen will really help him to be able to do this and I can’t thank Meg and Paul enough for what they have done to help make this possible.”
With all of the abrupt changes in their lives, medically, emotionally and physically, Amy admitted she lost a part of herself for a while, but a crack in a piece of patio stone made all the difference.
“We have had so many people help us, with a wheelchair ramps, building an accessible patio, helping with the bedroom—all things to make Dan’s life easier. Dan is able to go into the garage and go outside to the patio in the backyard all on his own now,” she said. “But one day, I just felt like I wanted everything to go back to the way it was where we were the ones volunteering. I walked outside to sit on the patio and was so upset when I saw this crack in our beautiful new patio.”
Pondering the imperfection for a few moments, Amy suddenly realized perhaps the crack was a message from God telling her that no one and no situation is perfect, and all things can serve a purpose in life.
“I never want to get caught up in the material of anything and it is so easy to do that,” she said, tearfully. “A friend of Dan’s sent us a book called ‘Devotions for Every Day of the Year,’ and every single time I have opened this book, there has been an appropriate passage for me, Dan and even for our sons at the right time we needed it.”
Through their journey of tragedy, pain and disappointment, Dan and Amy continue to be cognizant of God’s work in their lives and the work He is doing in the lives of others through the help they have received.
“We have trusted in the Lord before and now that rough times have come, it has made us stronger and work harder,” Amy said. “Life isn’t always on an easy slope and we often get content with things. A little bump in the road wakes us up a bit and refocuses us on what is important. There are so many people willing to help us out—people often lose faith in humans, but there are some really good people around who want to help others and we are so grateful.”
Paul Davis Restoration staff and recipients are pictured at the DeMatthew home in Racine, the site of the 2011 Restoring America project. Pictured from left to right are Paul Davis staff members Kim Falvey, Jayme Lippe, Bob Janik, Victoria Maduscha, and Tim Guilette, and the DeMatthew family, Amy, Dan and Jamie. (Submitted photo courtesy Paul Davis Restoration & Remodeling)