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Recovering Mahoney sets goals marking progress

| June 2, 2006 12:00 AM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

By August, Marcia Mahoney plans to go bike riding with her 9-year-old grandson, Devin.

Rob Sumner has no doubt Mahoney will make it happen.

Seriously injured on March 25 in a car accident on U.S. Highway 2 in the Swamp Creek area south of Libby, Mahoney was put back together with steel plates, pins, rods and 102 staples. She returned home to Libby on May 26, three months earlier than expected.

Sumner, an physical therapist intern, who for five weeks worked with Mahoney at ManorCare rehabilitation center in Spokane, said Mahoney's positive attitude made her speedy recovery possible.

"She's one of those people who's a self-starter," said Sumner, who is working on his doctorate in physical therapy at Eastern Washington University in Cheney. "She doesn't wait for others. Any goal she sets, she achieves. She's not one of those people I had to push."

Steve Mahoney, the retired manager for McDonald's in Libby, is thrilled to have his wife of 32 years home.

"It was difficult for me because I was doing the driving (on the day of the accident)," said Steve Mahoney, 64. "Traveling back and forth (to the hospital in Spokane) was difficult. I couldn't be with my best friend."

The crash occurred as Marcia, Steve and Devin Mahoney, and their Australian Shepherd Border Collie, Kadie, were returning from shopping in Kalispell.

"It was snowing heavily and I was in four-wheel drive doing 30 to 35 mph," said Steve Mahoney, who drives bus for Kootenai Valley Head Start and Harlow's, both in Libby.

"The car started to slide off the road to the right, so I slowly got back in my lane and said 'that was scary,' and then the car went a hard left," he continued.

Their 2004 Ford Explorer slammed into a rock wall and landed on its side. Steve and Devin Mahoney were wearing seat belts and suffered bruises. The dog was not hurt.

Sleeping in the back seat without a seat belt, the impact crushed Marcia Mahoney between the front and back seats.

"I remember excruciating pain and nothing after that," the 58-year-old said.

It took rescue officials 45 minutes to free Marcia Mahoney, a food server at Asa Wood Elementary School. She was taken to St. John's Lutheran Hospital and transferred by ambulance to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. Poor weather conditions made it impossible to fly her to Sacred Heart.

In the intensive care unit for five days, Marcia Mahoney underwent two surgeries that lasted 11 hours. She had broken both legs, her right hip, her pelvis, left arm and shoulder, and a vertebrae in her neck.

"I had a lot of funny looking hardware," Marcia Mahoney said.

Doctors told her it would be at least one year before she would "be normal."

After a month at Sacred Heart, Marcia Mahoney was transferred to ManorCare, where she worked with Sumner.

"The physical therapist was an intern. He was gun-ho," she said. "He pushed me and I pushed right along with him. There were some days I really hurt so bad."

"It's a rough time after an accident," said Sumner. "People get depressed and angry. She had a positive outlook."

Marcia Mahoney believes working out five to six days at Curves before the accident also helped her recovery.

"I was in pretty good shape before (the accident)," she said.

For now, Marcia Mahoney continues with therapy and counts her blessings. She gets around with a walker and looks forward to using a cane and then walking on her own.

"I don't believe in luck," Marcia Mahoney said. "I think God has a purpose for me. I'm going to be OK."