Welcome home, Donna! What a wonderful day this is for you, your family and friends!
Today, Donna Hathaway of Corinth moves back into the home she shared with her husband, Bill, and their daughters, Heather and Holly, until that fateful afternoon June 4, 1998, when her vehicle was struck by a breakaway automobile trailer on Route 15, causing her car to flip over and come to rest on its roof.
She was in critical condition, in a coma with extensive head injuries, and it was not known if Donna Hathaway would survive. At one point, her husband said, she was given three to six months to live.
Exactly one year ago today, in this column, Bill Hathaway told us his wife appeared to be coming out of the coma. She was starting to respond to a few commands, giving hope to the family that she would survive.
This afternoon, a limousine will arrive at the entrance to the Brewer Rehabilitation Center, which has been Donna’s “home” for the past 15 months, and take her, finally, to her own home in East Corinth.
“She’s come a long way, and she’s got a long way to go,” Bill told us Thursday, “but she is back. Donna is Donna.”
And while Donna Hathaway cannot walk on her own and do things for herself yet, the most important aspect of her recovery is that, despite the loss of oxygen to her brain after the accident, she can communicate, and she understands everything that is going on around her.
Communication with family and friends who are used to being with her is not difficult, Bill said, although her speech may be hard for some to understand at first.
However, if that doesn’t work, she just spells out what she has to say, using a small alphabet pad and pointing to the letters.
“She is starting to write a little bit; she can spell, add, subtract and multiply,” Bill said, marveling at the progress his wife has made.
“The kids are really good about it, and so are her family and friends who see her often. I’d say they can understand about 60 to 75 percent of what she says, which is great.
“In November we will have been married 20 years,” he continued, “and she can go back and remember everything, like vacations we’ve had. The only bits and pieces she’s missing are a few months before the accident” and, of course, the duration of her coma.
“She’s lost that year, but what is most important is that Donna is Donna,” he said. “It was her choice to come home. She told me, `Billy, I’ve been gone a long time,’ and she was ready to come home.”
To prepare for that event, Bill has been bringing Donna home weekends for the past two months. The final move involves a great deal for everyone, but they are ready.
A handicap-accessible addition to the house is in progress, and Donna is enrolled — five days a week, seven hours a day — at the Maine Integrated Rehab Center, formerly known as the Maine Head Trauma Center, in Bangor.
There she will relearn many of the things she needs to become independent once again.
The fact that this woman, who many believed would not survive at all, has made such progress is her own personal miracle.
Bill Hathaway believes the support the family has received has as much to do with her recovery as Donna’s courage and determination.
“Her family and friends have been a tremendous part of it,” he said.
“Between her family and friends, I think that’s 50 percent of what brought her through. Then it was Donna’s will and, although I’m not a particularly religious man, God pulling her through.”
Bill Hathaway is not only grateful for the support and encouragement of family and friends, but the unwavering support he has received from his employer, Campbell Construction of Brewer.
“The company I work for really backed me,” he said of his position as a supervisor for the construction firm.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the recovery process is all the paperwork that must be done with public and private departments and agencies, he said.
“I could spend anywhere between 10 to 14 hours a week, during the day, just on paperwork and calls [everything is done by telephone now, he pointed out], and the company has been really supportive. I couldn’t ask for more.”
Bill is taking a little vacation time to help Donna get resettled at home and begin her rehabilitation program in Bangor.
But one of the biggest joys is that, as a couple, the Hathaways will be able to do, together, what Bill did alone last year: supervise all the activity that abounds as their daughters prepare to return to school this fall.
The third of three fund-raisers conducted by the Hampden Fire Department to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Multiple Sclerosis Society is next on the agenda for these busy community-minded citizens.
Hampden firefighters will be conducting two drives for MDA and MSS.
The first drive is 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at Barco Federal Credit Union, 101 Western Ave. The firefighters will be outside if it’s a good day, inside if it’s rainy.
The second drive is 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Irving Mainway in downtown Hampden.
And remember, through the end of the month, you can leave bottles and cans at the fire station for the Hampden Fire Department’s drive to benefit these charities.
Catholic Charities of Maine Downeast Big Brothers Big Sisters is the beneficiary of a new fund-raiser: the first annual Downeast Baby Fair at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4, at the Bangor Mall.
Children 5 and under are eligible, and the “winner” is determined by the most “votes” he or she receives which, in reality, is a $1 contribution from family members, friends and neighbors.
Children can also earn votes by attending the beauty competition the day of the contest. Prizes will be awarded immediately after the beauty judging.
However, all children who enter receive certificates and other small prizes; ribbons will be awarded the beauty winners; and winners in the voting competition receive trophies.
The grand prize, for one boy and one girl, is an electronic jeep, courtesy of R.H. Foster. Entry packets are available at the Bangor Mall Customer Service desk.
Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; 990-8288.