There was a day during the summer of 2015 when Ana Maynard was told that her son Theron would not be able to start Cranston West as a freshman with the rest of his peers from Western Hills Middle School.
This coming June, he’s set to graduate with his class, having defied the odds.
He’s been a guest speaker at twice at Brown University Medical School and has spoken at Meeting Street School in Dartmouth, Massachusetts and is set to speak at Meeting Street in Providence about his recent experiences.
On May 29, 2015, Maynard suffered a traumatic brain injury after being in a car accident in Garden City. “I made an impulsive, class-clown type of decision [that night],” Theron said, detailing the accident which followed, where the then-eighth-grade student at WHMS was thrown 12 feet from the car, suffered a seizure in the parking lot of Newport Creamery, and was rushed to Hasbro Children’s Hospital.
“I was intubated twice, suffered two strokes and was put into a medically-induced coma for two weeks,” he said. “I have no recollection of most of that time.”
After Hasbro, Theron was transported by ambulance to Spaulding Rehabilitation Center in Boston, Massachusetts. It was on that ride from Hasbro to Spaulding when Theron remembers waking up and realizing for the first time, what was going on.
“I woke up in the ambulance on my way and I wasn’t really registering what was going on,” he said. “It was blurry, like in a movie and I wasn't sure where I was or why.” Upon arrival at Spaulding, Theron was in and out, but as he became more aware of his current situation and his “new life,” he was angry. “I broke down, I was angry, I was not myself, I’d done such a stupid thing,” he said, “But something clicked in me. July 4 was approaching and I did not want to be in the hospital for the fourth of July. I was in a wheelchair, my friends had to push me around when they came to visit me. It was humiliating because of who I was then. I couldn’t walk, or talk, I couldn’t shower standing up.”
“When they said he wouldn’t be able to start high school in the fall, I didn’t believe it for a second,” Ana said. “We had an amazing team at Spaulding and one of them said to me, ‘Your son will walk out of here,’ and he really advocated for himself with a team of ten providers. He had to sign a contract agreeing to do the work he needed to do.”
With a great deal of hard work, speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy, Theron re-learned how to walk and how to do many of the things he used to be able to do before the accident, and on July 3, 2015, he was out of the hospital.
“I was relieved to be home, to be able to sleep in my own bed, but it was troublesome too,” he said. “My friends were doing things that kids do when they’re going into high school and I couldn’t do them.”
In July of 2015, Theron and Ana met with Lorna Thompson, social worker at Cranston High School West and part of Theron’s IEP team which would help to create an Individualized Education Plan for Theron based on his new needs as he headed into high school.
“One wouldn’t have known all he had been through,” Thompson said.
Theron worked hard over the months of July and August towards his recovery, while still struggling with the after-effects of the accident and its impact on his life. Socially, his friends were changing since the accident, and he struggled to find his place.
“I was still trying to be liked and trying to act like the old me, to get kids to like me again,” he said.
Every morning he would get his inspiration by listening to South Paw “Kings Never Die,” as he looked for motivation to keep up the hard work and by the end of 2016, Theron started to get a new sense of self. As a freshman, he was asked to speak at Brown University and then again as a sophomore. He began writing poetry on December 17, 2017, when a “light bulb moment” struck him and he’s used it as a means of getting some of his thoughts on paper while going through his roller coaster of emotions and the changes his life had handed to him, receiving positive feedback despite some of the tough subjects his writing touches upon.
“Writing has been a solace to me, it’s how I cope with things,” Theron said. “Ever since December 17 I’ve been writing every Sunday. I set a reminder on my phone. I have 10-15 poems that fit together like a puzzle of what high school has been like for me.”
An aspiring movie director, he looks to the future as he considers life beyond high school.
“Now I’m a senior, it’s almost four years since the accident, and it’s been like a rebirth,” he said. “I used to be a punk, I had no respect for anybody, I was lying to my mom, skipping school. Now, once I was cleared to walk, I started to walk down the street and started going grocery shopping for the house with my own money. I started telling my mom, my sister, my step dad that I loved them,” he said. “I have such a different appreciation for every millisecond of my life now. Every moment is precious because tomorrow is never promised. The things I thought were promised, the eighth-grade formal, my friends, none of that happened.”
Theron hopes to put his writing skills and life lessons learned these past four years to work as he pursues college and begins his life beyond high school and he hopes to be able to share his message with those younger than him, those who are now where he once was as an eighth-grader.
“This will always be a part of me, and I want to make a difference, to leave an impact on the younger generations to not make poor decisions, stupid decisions,” he said. “It was one bad decision, one mistake, I didn’t think about it, I did it and it was a very bad mistake, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Ana Maynard is so proud of her son for all he’s accomplished in the time since his accident, and she never lost hope for his success, even in the toughest of times during the initial two weeks in the hospital when she found herself comforting others with her strength. As a nurse, she knew what he was up against, and yet knew that he could overcome his challenges.
Principal Tom Barbieri is also proud of Theron and will be proud to see him walk across the stage in June to receive his diploma.
“Theron is the true definition of what we consider a falcon,” he said. “To overcome all that he has is just amazing."