Maxx Kusper, the 11-year-old Brookfield boy critically injured when he was struck by an Amtrak train at the Prairie Avenue crossing, has made remarkable progress in the past week and will be transferred to a rehab hospital in Chicago to continue his recovery.
Maxx, who was in a medically induced coma while recovering from surgery after the March 28 accident, was removed from a ventilator and sedation early last week. Since that time, Maxx has sat up, spoken and interacted with his parents.
“He has slowly regained consciousness and is now entering the process of relearning many things,” said Maxx’s mother, Marcey Raymond Kusper, in an email to the Landmark on Monday. “His doctors are amazed at his progress.”
According to Kusper, Maxx will spend the next four to six weeks at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, followed by continued outpatient therapy.
Within six months, Maxx will undergo another round of surgery to replace a portion of his skull, which was surgically removed after the accident to relieve pressure on his brain.
Kusper said Maxx had sustained multiple injuries, including a fractured skull, broken collar bones, a broken pelvis and damage to one of his knees.
She said that on the afternoon of March 28, bored with quarantine at home, Maxx decided to go out for a walk.
“Word travels fast in town, and when I heard there was an accident, I just had a feeling,” Kusper said. “He had left just 10 minutes before to go for a walk. … I started calling his phone, but he wasn’t answering.
“His twin sister was about to walk out the door to look for him when a policeman answered his phone. ‘There’s been an accident. What’s your son’s name?’ Right away I knew.”
Kusper said that while Maxx is rehabilitating at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, one parent will have to remain at the hospital with him due to COVID-19 fears. Since the accident more than two weeks ago, Kusper and her husband, Don, have been at Loyola University Medical Center for all but a few hours every day.
When she is able to return home to care for her other children, Kusper said the sight of blue ribbons and signs is overwhelming.
“I cannot describe the feeling of seeing the town blanketed in Blue and seeing my boy … everywhere,” Kusper said. “It means the world to us, but more importantly has helped Maxx’s brothers and sister feel the support and love they so desperately need.”
Brookfield, said Kusper, “has helped our family through the hardest time in our lives.” Shows of support include the boys in Maxx’s fifth-grade classroom at Hollywood School shaving their heads.
“They all made a video so I could show him these as he comes out of the coma and regains communication,” Kusper said.
Maggie Hiestand, a seventh-grader at Hauser Junior High, made a video featuring all of Maxx’s classmates, while other videos have come from unexpected sources. Former Major League Baseball player Curtis Granderson, a Chicago native, passed along a video giving Maxx his best wishes.
Dan McGuinness, guitar player for the band Creedence Clearwater Revisited, sent a video of him performing “Centerfield,” Maxx’s favorite song, while local musician Matt Scharpf hosted a Facebook Live #MaxxStrong concert on April 5.
On April 18 at 8 p.m., Dave Wzorek is planning a Facebook Live #MaxxStrong concert of his own.
Meanwhile, an online fundraiser created soon after the accident had raised a little more than $54,000 as of April 13. Donations are still being accepted.
“Because the quarantine prevented our family from getting the support and hugs we so desperately needed, Brookfield stepped up to show us this love and support in every other way,” Kusper said.
“I have always loved Brookfield; this is why.”