Matt DeVlieger Continues Recovery From Scuba Diving Accident
Thursday, April 08, 2010
By Sports information Student Assistant Derek Neice
(Matt DeVlieger With Andy Roddick April 2 in Miami).
Much of the Calvin community knows of the horrible scuba diving accident that happened to junior Matt DeVlieger last year, an accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. As a tennis player, Matt’s teammates certainly hold a special place for him in their hearts as he continues down the road of recovery. So with this in mind and with the 2010 season still just in its initial stages of competition, they have a lot to play for in terms of this season’s emotional significance.
Matt’s twin brother Andrew was with him on the day of the accident and so while having to come back to Calvin and play without his brother has been hard, the steps Matt has taken in recovering has been encouraging on an almost inexpressible way as he has regained some motor skills in his legs in recent weeks.
The accident itself occurred on December 28th, 2009, on a scuba trip the two brothers took with their father in the Florida Keys over Christmas vacation. The dive was to a shipwreck on the ocean floor, about 130 feet down in the water. After their father resurfaced, Matt surfaced but did so too quickly which brought about decompression sickness.
The decompression sickness did not occur immediately said Matt’s twin brother Andrew DeVlieger.
“When I joined him at the surface he seemed fine,” said Andrew. “At that point, we laughed it off and swam back to the boat.”
Initially Matt felt good upon resurfacing but soon the symptoms began showing once back on the boat, first with a tingling sensation in his chest which soon turned into sharp chest pains. Andrew and his father got Matt back to land as quickly as possible and rushed him to the hospital. Matt lost feeling in his legs, movement he never regained until only recently.
During his treatment Matt has made some major strides. Doctors initially told the DeVliegers that Matt would never regain the use of his legs, but over Spring Break he was able to wiggle one of his little toes and soon after that he started regaining some slight movement in his legs, becoming able to bend his knees.
(Matt DeVlieger With Rafael Nadal April 2 in Miami).
“It’s been a huge huge miracle,” said Andrew. “This is one of those things that shouldn’t have happened, the doctors are completely bewildered, no explanation whatsoever.”
“It was completely supernatural, definitely a testament to the power of prayer,” Andrew continued.
During Calvin’s spring break the tennis team was able to meet Matt in Orlando where they were playing in a series of matches. While in Orlando, Matt got the opportunity to ride up to Orlando from Miami and hit the ball around with the other players on the team in his wheelchair.
“It was so awesome, a really good experience for Matthew,” said Andrew of his brother getting to come visit the team in Orlando. “It was really inspiring and uplifting.”
Perhaps the most amazing part of this whole ordeal has been Matt’s attitude throughout the whole process. He has remained completely trustful in God’s perfect providence with a positive mindset through all his treatment.
“His attitude is remarkable, he has such a peace for where he is,” said Andrew of his brother. “He’s kept his sense of humor and he’s been really encouraged by the Calvin community.”
On Friday, April 2, Matt received the opportunity to meet two of the top tennis players in the world as he received VIP access at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. While at the tournament, Matt was able to meet tennis greats Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal. The VIP access was made possible by the work of Calvin alumn Dr. Bruce Hyma who serves as the current Chief Medical Examiner of Miami Dade County Hospital.
Dr. Hyma has also expanded Matt’s vision for a career in medicine, giving him a tour of the Miami County Office of Forensic Investigations.
So, as Matt continues to improve, the entire Calvin community will continue to hope and pray for a full recovery and the tennis team will play for a special season and play for Matt and his continued improvement.