Every parent dreads the day they get a phone call explaining that their child is in the hospital. On January 12 2016 for Donovan Maldonado’s (aka Donny) parents Laura and Matthew, this became the unfortunate reality. We sat down with Laura, Matthew and Donny to learn about the day Donny nearly lost his life after being hit by a car, what his rehab process was like, and how he has been exemplifying a FighterHeart athlete everyday since.
The Near Fatal Accident
It was a winter afternoon in January when Donovan “Donny” Maldonado was crossing the street, on his way home from school, and suddenly got hit by a car. His mother Laura explained the moment she got the news, “I was at work when I got a phone call from my neighbor across the street. She said, where are you? Your son got into a car accident…I was like is he okay? And she didn't want to answer me…I kept asking if he was okay, and she wouldn’t tell me, that's when I knew it was bad.” Donny’s father got the news while at home after his neighbors came and got him. He rushed to the scene but got there just as the ambulance was taking Donny away. It was at that point Donny’s father was told by a police officer to get in his car so he can bring him to the hospital. Matthew insisted on getting his cell phone from his home first, but was told some shocking news in response, “You don't have time for that he told me. He said he never seen anything so terrible and horrific in his life and that if I wanted to see my son alive, I should come right now.”
Life Hanging by a Thread
Both of Donny’s parents rushed to the hospital. As you could imagine, it wasn’t looking good for Donovan. He had suffered a traumatic brain injury, as well as broken bones, and was put into a coma as a result. Laura recalled the emotional moment she got the news that every parent dreads most; “When I got there, everyone looked like they had been crying… then a woman, I don't know if she was a doctor or something, told me that he wasn’t going to make it…I just lost it.”
Fighting Back from Being Blind, Deaf and Mute
Fortunately, against all odds, Donny did make it out alive. Though severely banged up, he began his long journey to recovery. This was the moment another FighterHeart athlete was born. Donny was blind, deaf and mute after coming out of his coma, and had to relearn how to do pretty much everything. Slowly and steadily Donny showed progress, eventually beginning to walk again. It came to the point where Donny was ready to get out of the hospital and start school again.
Boxing Training for Recovery
At this point Donny told his parents something pivotal to getting him where he is today, “I kept telling my parents that I wanted to be a fighter, that way I could just take the flight part out of the fight or flight idea…that’s when my dad got in touch with Coach Mike.” Kayo Boxing in Long Island, NY is home to those who wish to take the art of boxing seriously, and discover their true potential. This is where Matthew chose to bring his son’s recovery to the next level. The owner of Kayo Boxing, Mike Corleone, remembers the day he met Donny and got choked up thinking about it, “When he first came here, he somewhat struggled to walk and wasn’t exactly balanced…I’m used to dealing with fully operational people, and Donny was only the second person I dealt with these sort of limitations, and I don't even like the word limitation because he surpassed those already. I’m getting choked up just thinking about it.”
How to Exceed Expectations and Succeed
Fast forward to present day and Donny has exceeded everybody’s expectations, including his coach, “…to see Donny get in there and throw combinations…he's moving left, he's dodging right, he's slipping, he’s dipping. Nobody could expect that on the first day” said Coach Mike. Donny has surpassed all expectations, going from being in a coma and having his life in danger, to relearning how to speak, eat, walk and function, to becoming what is now a more skilled boxer than the majority of the US population. His mother Laura describes a FighterHeart as “someone who keeps pushing through adversity and doesn’t stop.” Donny himself describes a FighterHeart as “someone who is always ready for any type of fight, it doesn’t matter if it’s going to be long or short, the point is to be there at the end.” The point is if you were to look up “FighterHeart” in the dictionary, you would see a picture of Donovan Maldonado. We left the interview with words of advice from Laura to parents who may find themselves in a similar situation to theirs, “Don’t limit your child. Don’t think that they can’t do something, let them try and fail then try again and fail again. Never give up on your child.” It was at this point Donny began banging out pushups…enough said.