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Stamford High Student Erwin Hernandez Recovering from Accident

Marissa Young and Kiran Jagtiani

Marissa Young, Editor-in-Chief

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On December 27, Erwin Hernandez reported to the kitchen at Table 104 on Long Ridge Road in Stamford, expecting it to be a typical day at work. A few hours later, a valet driver crashed a car into the restaurant’s kitchen, leaving the Stamford High senior with a seriously injured leg.

Three surgeries later, Hernandez finds himself recovering from an above-the-knee leg amputation. Investigation of the accident led to the discovery of a terrible coincidence. According to Stamford Police Sgt. Andrew Gallagher, the owner of the car told the valet driver that the car had the gas pedal on the left side to accommodate the owner’s prosthetic leg. The car owner offered to park the car himself, but the valet driver declined the offer. Minutes later, the valet driver crashed into the restaurant’s kitchen, seriously injuring Hernandez.

During an interview in the hospital, Hernandez was very forthcoming about the immediate aftermath of his life-changing injury. “At the beginning it was pretty overwhelming,” said Hernandez, “but now it’s a little bit calmer.” Since the accident and his surgeries, Hernandez has been moved to the Van Munching Rehabilitation Center at Stamford Hospital where he is learning how to walk with crutches and how to get around in a wheelchair.

Among other symptoms, Hernandez explained that he is experiencing “phantom pain,” a relatively common symptom for people who lose a limb. Phantom pain is the feeling that the missing limb is still present. Like others who experience this type of pain, Hernandez continues to receive extremely painful sensations from his leg, even though it is no longer a part of his body. Hernandez stated, “I still feel like my leg is there, so we are working on exercises to try to get my other leg stronger.”

In addition to the more obvious physical challenges that Hernandez is facing, he said that he is still learning “how to manage all of these things mentally and emotionally.” He also said that one of the hardest things is how quickly his life has changed. “I went from being up on my feet for 16 hours a day to being in a hospital bed,” Hernandez said. In the future, he is hoping to learn how to use a prosthetic leg, but he cannot do so until his wound is completely healed.  

Despite all of these changes, Hernandez has tried to remain very positive. He is expected to be in the rehab center for the next two weeks and is planning to return to Stamford High in late January to complete his senior year. Hernandez said it is truly a tragedy, but he is trying to remain strong and is looking forward to going back to school and continuing to participate in programs like the peer mentoring program and the National Honor Society.

Hernandez knows his recovery won’t come easily but is very thankful for all of the support he has been getting from the community. He said this is a “really bad situation” but all of his visitors and the support he has been getting have helped him to remain mentally strong.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help cover some of the medical expenses and has been a great way for the Stamford High and extended community to share their thoughts and their support. Administrators, teachers, students, friends, and community members who have never even met Hernandez have come together to support him. His teachers have described him as the “ideal student.”

Many have posted encouraging and supportive comments on the GoFundMe page. Teacher Kristin Veenema shared that Hernandez’s “smile and thoughts and kindness are missed in class,” while Stamford High graduate Caro Lescano wrote, “I admire all that you’ve accomplished so far and know you have a lot of greatness ahead of you.” Donor Linda Tillman said Hernandez is truly being “a role model for us all.”

While the Stamford community has been extremely helpful in raising more than $51,000, there is still a long way to go to reach the immediate goal of $150,000. To donate, visit gofundme.com and search for the “Keep the Promise” campaign by Michelle Malave.

Hernandez stated that aside from his rehab and therapy, he doesn’t believe that the accident will impact his future goals.  He said, “I will try to keep doing the things that I was doing when I was fine.” He is looking forward to returning to school and graduating with the rest of his classmates in the spring.

(You can donate to Erwin’s GoFundMe by clicking the link below)

https://www.gofundme.com/3fe3t3-keep-the-promise

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Stamford High Student Erwin Hernandez Recovering from Accident