Long Journey Back Takes Courage & Faith

Marvin Hurn works out under the watchful eye of physical therapist Steve Garske, P.T., at Body in Balance in Fairfield.

CHP Officer Marvin Hurn, 31, was spending a relaxing day off with his family and church at a trampoline park in Fairfield when his world was forever changed.

It was just one leap—from the trampoline into the foam pit surrounding it—but he landed on his head at the bottom of the pit.

He knew instantly what had happened. He hit his head on the ground and suddenly could no longer feel his body.

That was Aug. 13 when the eight-year CHP veteran dislocated his neck, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. His wife, Deanna, was at another area of the park when the accident happened. Her 10-year-old daughter, Ramiyah, ran to her crying, “Daddy’s hurt his neck!” She followed Ramiyah to the accident site, not knowing what to expect.

What she saw was a silent group of people, all looking down. They were looking at Marvin, trapped at the bottom of the foam pit, with two men from their church supporting his neck. She began to cry and pray for his life to be spared.

As a highway patrolman, Marvin had worked at many accident scenes and he knew that the seriously injured patients were usually flown by helicopter to larger hospitals for treatment. To his surprise, the paramedics told him NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield had a neurosurgery program and would take good care of him.

Neurosurgeon Jeffrey Dembner, M.D., with his patient, Marvin Hurn, two months after the accident.

He was rushed by ambulance to the hospital and into the capable hands of the trauma team. Within hours, he had undergone all of the diagnostic tests necessary for neurosurgeon Jeffrey Dembner, M.D., to take him into the operating room. His surgery began at midnight as Dr. Dembner realigned his dislocated spine and fused his neck.

Meanwhile, Deanna sent their three daughters home with grandparents and began her vigil. She wouldn’t leave the hospital for a week. Marvin had never been in the hospital and she didn’t want to leave him alone.

Marvin’s surgery was a success, and he spent the next week in the intensive care unit.

He went from being very active and independent to having no feeling below his chest. His medical team advised him that even when feeling came back, his likely outcome would be life in a wheelchair. He couldn’t accept that and Dr. Dembner gave him hope.

In the dark days following his surgery, Dr. Dembner would ask if he could move his toes and Marvin just shook his head. “Not yet, Mr. Hurn, not yet,” Dr. Dembner would correct him.

Marvin has learned that healing is a physical, mental and spiritual process of putting in hard work and having a strong mind and faith to give you hope.

His first sense of feeling came in his thigh, although he couldn’t move a muscle. It was enough to encourage him to believe that with hard work he could regain some mobility. After a week in the hospital he was transferred to the inpatient acute rehabilitation program at Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa.

When he entered rehab he could hardly lift his head. But a physical therapist agreed to work with him as long as he showed progress. That was all Marvin needed to hear.

He learned that the window to make the most physical progress closes after about 12 months, so he was motivated to make the most of this time.

He had minimal movement when he left NorthBay Medical Center, but after five weeks in acute rehab, he was discharged using a walker.

His next step in recovery was an in-home program called “Rehabilitation Without Walls.” It helped him acclimate to being at home and in the community.

By November, Marvin was no longer wearing a neck brace. At home, he alternated between a wheelchair and a walker; remaining positive and believing he would make a full recovery. In December, he began physical therapy at Body in Motion in Fairfield.

Dr. Dembner asked for full reports about Marvin’s progress. “You can tell he takes great pride in every patient,” Deanna says.

The months of recovery have been hard for the young family raising three daughters, ages 2, 3, and 10. “This has been the biggest challenge of our entire lives,” Deanna says. “As for our marriage, we’re doing our best to persevere through this life-changing situation. My husband I work together as a team and surviving this is teaching us how be an even better team. But, like any couple, we have our moments!”

Marvin Hurn is guided through balance exercises by Jay Gasang, a physical therapy aide at Body in Balance in Fairfield.

They’re both learning to have patience with each other and the situation in which they find themselves. “I have had to talk with Marvin and really convey the challenge of tending to him and the kids while managing our business. Sometimes this means he will have to be patient with me, as I am with him, as I juggle the day to be with him, the kids and our learning center,” Deanna explains.

The Hurns own Miracle Math Coaching in Fairfield, a successful learning center with 15 employees. It’s a business that Deanna developed from her own love of teaching math. Her strong faith has helped her balance the demands of work and family.

“I have an amazing administrative assistant, parents and teachers at my learning center and the center has blossomed through this because of their love and support for me,” she says.

For Marvin, recovery is his full-time job. He’s learned that healing is a three-fold process— physical, mental and spiritual. Putting in hard work and having a strong mind and using faith to give himself hope gets him through the day.

Always a goal-setter, in rehab he’s had to learn to listen to his body more—to find a balance between working out and not doing too much. He’s learning to work with where he is physically right now, with a goal in sight. His ultimate goal is to get back to work with the CHP.

The couple feels blessed by the outpouring of support they’ve received from their church, Liberty Christian Center; their CHP family; and the NorthBay nurses and doctors.

“Our family has extended to so many people who have lent helping hands, I honestly don’t see how we could have made it without their support,” Deanna adds.

Marvin Hurn is dedicated to sharing his story
to inspire and help others. If you would like to have him speak at your event, please send him an email at DHurn@me.com.

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