A hard decision, but the right decision

Doctors never thought that Michael Taurozzi would reach 18 years old. Michael had a stroke while still in his mother’s womb and has limited or no speech, vision or mobility. When he was five or six, his father, John Taurozzi, recalls, “it was very difficult to give him what he needed because we got to a point where it was very difficult to feed him.”

His grandmother, Elaine Brunner, recalls that, “it was hard on the whole family because he needed so much attention and care. There were two sisters, one older and one younger, and they were limited as to where they could go and when they could go. He was getting bigger, but he still needed the care like a three-month old.”

The family decided that “ having him in a full-time facility was the only choice,” says John. “We did a tremendous amount of research on facilities, and we came to the conclusion that it was Matheny all the way.”

Michael was admitted as a resident in May 2000 when he was six years old. “It was a hard decision,” adds his mother, Janice. “You still think about it every day – ‘Did I do the right thing?’ But when you come to choosing Matheny, you know you did the right thing. From the aides to the nurses to the therapists, everybody here is just amazing.” Michael’s grandfather, Jack Brunner, remembers the first time he and his wife were at Matheny. “We left with tears in our eyes and our heart pounding,” he says, “but since then we’ve realized this is the best place he could possibly be.”

For more of Michael’s story, watch for our Annual Appeal brochure in the mail this month.

Above: Michael with, from left, grandfather Jack Brunner; father John Taurozzi and grandmother Elaine Brunner.

‘Matheny has given serenity and faith back to us’

Even though Michael Taurozzi can’t speak, can’t walk and has limited hearing, his teacher, Christina Carey, believes Michael’s greatest qualities are “his smile, laugh and sense of humor. He loves to interact and verbalize with his peers and he is always looking for a good laugh.”

John Taurozzi believes his son is so happy because “the people at Matheny treat him with so much love and care. That’s the difference here. It’s not just the medical benefits that the school offers. It’s each and every one of the nurses and the physical therapists and the occupational therapists and the amount of love and care they give these students.”

Everyone who knows Michael remarks about his love for music, which is confirmed by his music therapist, Alissa West. “Mike,” she says, “lights up in music therapy. He loves hearing new sounds and laughs when he hears the instrument sounds he likes best. He likes moving to upbeat rock songs and vocalizes during improvised music. He also seems to like deep vibrations made by instruments such as the bass bars or a buffalo drum. And he giggles when he hears and feels them.”

His father points out that Michael’s strongest sense is his hearing. “If he’s home and it’s quiet, and I see him open up his eyes and lift his head, I know something’s up. One thing about Michael – he absorbs the environment. That’s why Matheny is such an amazing place for him. It’s upbeat and positive.”

“When Michael was home,” his mother, Janice recalls, “I would spend three hours just feeding him. I’m so happy he’s here. You know when you walk in, it’s the right place.” Matheny, adds Michael’s grandparents, Jack and Elaine Brunner, “has given our whole extended family serenity and faith back.”

Michael will be featured in our Annual Appeal brochure. Look for it in the mail in the coming days.

Above: Michael and his teacher, Christina Carey.

Michael’s progress: ‘astonishing’

When Michael Taurozzi, now 18, was still in his mother’s womb, he had a stroke, which seriously affected one side of his brain. However, after spending more than 11 years as a residential student at Matheny, there is, in the words of his mother, Janice Taurozzi, “a big difference in Michael. He can comprehend now. He knows when we’re here. He knows when he’s in the classroom. He loves going to the mall, and he loves going to the beach.”

Though he can’t speak, has limited vision and can’t walk, Michael has a contagious smile that lights up a room.  But, “the astonishing thing,” says his father, John Taurozzi, of Randolph, NJ, “is when I go into his classroom, and they ask him, ‘Michael, which color is red?’ He goes to the button and picks the right one. It just blows me away that he can do that.”

For more about Michael, watch your mail for our Annual Appeal brochure.

Above: Michael and his mother, Janice Taurozzi.