The Road Back: A Journey of Grace and Grit , by Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Vitez, is an inspiring and gut-wrenching story of Matt Miller, a young triathlete and student at the University of Virginia, who suddenly and without warning was inexplicably struck by tragedy, suffering life-threatening injuries in a cycling accident on a remote mountain pass. Miraculously, his accident was witnessed by Mark Harris, an anesthesiologist, and his wife, who happened to be out for a morning drive with their car club. Dr. Harris told his wife he thought the boy was dead. Nonetheless, like the Good Samaritan depicted at the top of the Ether Monument in Boston’s Public Garden, Dr. Harris went to Matt’s aid and found he had a crushed face and skull, was not breathing, and exhibited signs of brain damage. Dr. Harris instinctively performed a risky maneuver, knowing it might do more harm than good but also knowing it was his best shot at getting Matt to breathe, which would buy them enough time to get him to a trauma center. As fate would have it, good fortune continued to be on Matt’s side. All the right people were in exactly the right places at the right times, including, in addition to Mark Harris, the dedicated airlift flight nurse who set his transportation in motion, the nursing student friend studying at home who contacted his girlfriend, and a trauma team awaiting his arrival at one of the leading American trauma centers. The phone call every parent hopes they will never receive was made. How his parents, brother, and girlfriend responded is remarkable.
At the time of his accident, Matt was an amazingly fit 20-yr-old who was on top of the world. He was highly committed to pursuing a career in medicine and had a loving girlfriend and an incredibly close family. His future prospects seemed extraordinary, but in an instant his life changed forever.
The tale of Matt’s survival and recovery is moving. In the race against time to save his life and preserve his brain and facial functions, the medical teams worked together with amazing diligence. But would that be enough? His constrained but emotional father, his pragmatic and level-headed mother, and his faithful girlfriend would watch in wonder as this brilliant young man struggled to regain his ability to pursue his academic and other personal goals. Always one to test himself and push his limits, Matt Miller would prove his mettle and amaze and inspire everyone who knew him. What he accomplished in such a short time after his accident was nothing short of miraculous.
The Road Back is a must read for parents. We often wonder what our children are capable of and how our guidance and nurturing have helped shape who they are. Matt’s story will reassure the reader that their children will have what it takes when they need it most, though you will pray that they will never need it to the extent Matt Miller did.
Mary Anne Avram, B.S., M.T. (A.S.C.P.),
**Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, Illinois. firstname.lastname@example.org