Community looks to support victim of ‘freak accident’

While Mark Smolen of Shelton was driving up Route 8 back in 2016, a tire came off a trailer being towed in the opposite direction, came across the median, and smashed through his windshield, striking Mark in the face, causing his car to swerve off the highway and end up on its roof in the woods.

It’s been more than two years since a freak accident on Route 8 changed a resident’s life forever. Now, he needs help from the community more than ever.

On March 6, 2016, Shelton resident Mark Smolen, 45, left his new condominium in Shelton and hopped in his car to head over to his sister Liz’s house in Bethany for a typical workout session he’d have with his brother-in-law, Mike.

While he was driving up Route 8 a tire came off a trailer being towed in the opposite direction, came across the median, and smashed through his windshield, striking Mark in the face, causing his car to swerve off the highway and end up on its roof in the woods.

“It was really just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said longtime friend Dan Beyer. “I understand that the car traveling behind Mark was occupied by a family of four; I don’t know why things happen the way they do, but in my eyes he’s a hero. He could’ve saved all four of those people, there’s no telling what could’ve happened.”

After being cut from his car, having a tube inserted to assist him with breathing on-site, Mark was rushed to Waterbury Hospital in critical condition. According to information on Mark’s fund-raising page, doctors quickly learned that Mark’s injuries were very severe and ordered to have him transported via helicopter to the Yale New Haven Hospital ICU.  

Mark had suffered severe head trauma, a broken jaw, broken orbital and had significant brain swelling and was in a coma.

He spent over a month in the ICU at Yale, awoke from his coma and was able to raise his thumb or squeeze a hand to respond.

“The last two years have been filled with small steps and significant efforts, and pain, as Mark has fought to recover,” said Beyer.

The road to recovery     

Once Mark was stable enough to leave Yale’s ICU he was transferred to JFK Rehabilitation Hospital in New Jersey. He spent months there fighting every day to learn to talk and to learn to regain control of basic motor skills. He then was moved to NeuroRestorative in Weymouth, Mass., and had daily rehabilitation at Spaulding Rehab Hospital, according to Beyer.    

After additional months of intensive rehab, Beyer said Mark finally recovered to the point where he could move back home to his condominium in Shelton. Since his return, Mark has been undergoing continuous rehabilitation at the likes of Gaylord, Griffin, Albin Center and Prolete Rehab and has had to return to Spaulding Rehab Hospital in Boston for multiple procedures.      

Mark’s traumatic brain injury (TBI) has left him with left side weakness throughout his body. This has affected his speech, ability to swallow, use of his left arm and his ability to walk.

“His right arm is still as strong as ever,” said Beyer.

Mark-Apalooza

Mark is currently in a wheelchair and must have 24/7 live-in care to assist with his recovery. His condominium has had to be retrofitted with a stair-lift and other modification to make it safe and accessible for Mark. This is where Mark requires support from his community.

“It’s astronomical the amount of costs that he has occurred since the accident,” said Beyer. “Especially since he’s on the therapy side now. With a traumatic brain injury he requires a lot of therapy, both speech as well as physical therapy to help move those muscles that are injured.”

With the costs of caring for Mark being so expensive, Beyer said he and Mark’s family decided to create an event to help cover the costs. Since its creation, Mark’s donation page has collected $12,860 of its $25,000 goal.

“It’s called Mark-Apalooza,” said Beyer before describing the fund-raising event planned for Saturday, July 21, at the Woodbury Brewing company from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. “The reason we’re doing it in Woodbury is because it’s owned by a friend of Mark that he graduated high school with.”

Currently, Beyer said he and Mark’s family are in search of people willing to donate basket donations that will be raffled off, gift cards, event tickets, and or monetary donations that will go directly toward paying for treatments and modifications to his home.

Mark is determined to walk again and to get back to independent living and get on with his life, according to his donation page.   

“We are asking for your support to help pay for the rehab and medical services needed to help get Mark his independence back. Mark, like many of us had what we think of as adequate insurance but with the astronomical medical bills for his care and the length of his recovery, it has proved to be far less than what Mark needs to live on and to fund his recovery. We need help in paying for his rehabilitation, medical procedures and needed in-home modifications to help further his recovery.”

Mark Smolen was an avid tuna fisherman prior to his debilitating car accident in 2016.

Beyer said Mark has always loved being outdoors and fishing. Mark has owned several boats that he’s used for catching fish with his family before going home to prepare some of his favorite sushi dishes, according to Beyer.

To learn more about Mark, the accident, his progress and to make monetary donations visit https://www.youcaring.com/marksmolen-1141887/thankyou?utm_campaign=buttonshare.

Beyer said currently he’s searching for and in need of additional donations to raffle and silent auction items such as event tickets, restaurant gift certificates, gift baskets, etc. Contact Beyer directly to donate, purchase tickets and more at 203-233-8227 or [email protected]

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