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Accident survivor comes back from a nightmare
Michael Sizemore (center) is seen with his parents, Mark and Susan Sizemore. (Contributed photo)
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer
Michael Sizemore considers himself a walking, talking miracle.
In September 2012, Sizemore, 29, was struck by a car while crossing a street in Arlington. He suffered a fractured skull, multiple bone fractures including two broken legs, numerous cuts and contusions. He had to be placed in a medically induced coma.
Today, Sizemore said, he’s walking, talking and even back to running 5K and 10K races, all by the grace of God and the support of his family, friends and church family.
Sizemore told his story recently to the congregation at Smith Memorial United Methodist Church. His father, Mark Sizemore, began the story by discussing the horrible night when he and Michael’s mother, Susan Sizemore, learned what had happened to their son.
One of Michael’s friends phoned their home shortly after midnight to tell them that Michael had been struck by a car. Mark Sizemore described the call as “a parent’s worst nightmare.”
They left immediately for George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., Mark Sizemore said. They were too nervous to drive, so a family member drove them.
The five-hour trip lasted an eternity, he said. Michael’s surgeon phoned them during the drive.
“He very quickly said, ‘Your son has been hit; his skull has been fractured,’” Mark Sizemore recalled. “‘He has multiple bone fractures. He has multiple cuts. I’ve got to do surgery right now and take out a piece of his skull. If I don’t, he going to die. It’s not guaranteed to work, and the surgery is very risky.’ I said, ‘Of course, do it.’”
When the Sizemores arrived at the hospital and first saw Michael, he was unconscious, immobilized in a bed, his face bruised and swollen.
“It literally floored both of us,” Mark Sizemore said. “I started praying. I said, ‘God, I got nothing. I got nothing. If I had it, it wouldn’t help here. Lord, please, please let my son live.’ I was going to say that prayer a lot over the next several days.”
Doctors closely monitored Michael Sizemore over the next days and weeks, Mark Sizemore said. He often found himself running through the same questions over and over again in his mind: “Is he going to live? If he lives, is he going to come out of his coma? If he comes out of the coma, is he going to know us? If he knows us, is he going to be the same?”
However, he said, Susan Sizemore never lost faith that her son would experience a total recovery.
Michael Sizemore told the congregation that he still is in the recovery process, but that he is blessed to again be able to walk and talk.
When he first left the hospital and returned home to Henry County, Sizemore said, “I could barely talk and I couldn’t do much at all without a soft-cast helmet, because half my skull was in ice up in Washington, D.C.”
“I may always be called hard-headed, but at that point, I could be called half-headed,” Sizemore added, to the congregation’s laughter. “My head is so hard, it totaled a car.”
Sizemore said that during those early days of his recovery, when he could do little but lie in bed, the numerous letters of support from friends and his church family helped inspire him to recover.
It took a long time to read those letters, he said. Shortly after his accident, it was difficult for him to read, because the words became jumbled in his mind.
“It would kind of tick me off,” he said. “‘I know this word; I know this word. Why can’t I read it or say it?’”
Before his accident, Sizemore said, he was an athlete, training for a full 26.2-mile marathon.
“I was getting there, and boy, I looked good,” Sizemore joked.
To go from training for a marathon to being stuck in a wheelchair or behind a walker was a frustrating experience, he said. However, he said, he found strength in his faith.
“When I came back into physical therapy and speech therapy, as hard as it was, I had inspiration from my church family and my friends and family,” Sizemore said. “I pushed. ... I knew that I was a miracle. I knew that God has a plan for me.”
Through hard work and determination, Sizemore regained his strength, eventually running in the Martinsville 5K with his father.
“I darn sure finished that one,” he said.
He has since participated in several other races, he said, including Maryland’s “Warrior Dash,” a three-and-a-half mile obstacle course, which he completed with his girlfriend, Nicky Zamostny, by his side.
Before his accident, Sizemore worked as a lobbyist with the Virginia Association of Community Services Boards (VACSB) Inc. near Richmond, and he also did work with the General Assembly, he said.
Today, he still is actively involved in community service, volunteering with the Brain Injury Association of Virginia, his church in Richmond and other organizations. He also is working toward several jobs in the field of government relations.
Sizemore said recently that he has begun to feel like he’s getting back to “the old Mike Sizemore.”
“Speaking of old Sizemore ... in a few months, I’ll turn 30,” he said, prompting laughter from the congregation. “But you know what? That is a blessing, because a year and a half ago, a lot of people weren’t sure I’d turn 28 or 29. I will turn 30 by the grace of God.”