Surviving and starting over

With her father in coma for 72 days, Amherst student has newfound sense of humility and hope

The summer of 2012 changed Matthew Ehr’s life forever. Matthew got into a life altering motorcyle accident. He suffered a lot of brain damage from lack of oxygen due to collapsed lungs with no medical attention for hours. He was in a non-responsive state, hooked to multiple machines that were helping keep him alive for around two months. He was in a coma for roughly 72 days.

Once Matthew woke up from his non-responsive state, he had lost the last five years of his life, as he thought that his four-year-old child was still a baby. The next step of recovery was to live in a traumatic brain injury unit, across the state. He went through physical, occupational, and speech therapy to relearn daily functions and gain back memory of things he had lost.

Matthew shook as he tried to stand, his hand quivered as he tried to hold a fork. After the extensive 12 months, Matthew was discharged from the rehabilitation center. Though he made tremendous amounts of progress he left nowhere near the person he was before his accident.

“My life will never be the same, and it will never go back to how it used to be,”said Matthew as his life will always consist of physical and mental struggles. He now uses a wheelchair 24/7, he no longer talks the same, he will always need a caregiver to assist him with daily tasks, and he mentally struggles with what life has become. 

Matthew’s daughter Alyssa has learned many important life lessons through her dad’s tragedy. One of those things being that your choices always have consequences. Talking back to her mom leads to her being grounded, and doing her homework gets her good grades. Your choices lead to whether or not your consequences are good or bad.

She feels as though she has matured extremely fast from having to go through something someone should never have to experience during their childhood. She has realized that life is short and that tomorrow is never promised. She has learned to not judge those with physical, and mental disabilities because she knows that those lives are just as valuable as those without disabilities, and that they didn’t choose to have those types of struggles in life. If anything, the people with disabilities are stronger than people without. She feels that they are put through more because of that. Learning this has made her more humble and has made her grateful for the life she has been given.

Another thing she has learned is appreciation of vehicle safety and safety in general. Every time she sees people on motorcycles without a helmet, it reminds her of her dad. She understands now that there is nothing you can do to stay away from danger, but there are things that you can do to try to be safer. Examples of these would be wearing a seat belt, wearing a helmet, learning gun safety and many more things. Even though some of these examples aren’t as extreme as being in a life-altering accident, having this knowledge helps her through everyday life. “Because of this I have become a better person,” she adds.