Jason Maxwell is a big, strapping guy. His kids thought he was Superman as he worked day and night as a self-employed contractor.
Those thoughts were shattered when he called his wife Doreen at their Rocky Hill home August 9, 2011 to tell her "Don't freak out but I had an accident and I need you to come here."
"I had been to his job site before, it was a house in Portland, so I knew exactly where I was going but I don't remember driving there at all," Doreen said. "When I got there he was talking and walking but we went right to Middlesex Hospital. It was 95 degrees and I was hot but he was shaking. He was trying to make light of it but I knew it could be serious."
Jason walked into the ER and he was quickly whisked away. Soon nurses came to Doreen's side and prepared her that he might be really hurt and actually might be paralyzed.
"I was in shock," she said. "I was just talking to him, how could he be paralyzed. The nurse said he was walking on adrenaline. They couldn't deal with him there so they were calling Life Star but it was a terrible thunderstorm so it couldn't fly. We drove in an ambulance to Hartford Hospital."
Jason refused to think anything was really wrong with him but the diagnosis was broken neck between C1 and C5, broken lumbar spine L1 to L5, cracked ribs, a punctured lung, a shattered scapula and he lost 60 percent of his kidney. All of the injuries were on his left side.
"I remember falling and then I was out," Jason said. "When I came to I knew I hurt my left side and I called Doreen. I don't know why I didn't call 9-1-1 but it was my first instinct and I didn't think it was that bad. I started walking around, trying to figure out why I fell and then everything started to hurt. First it was just my shoulder then everything started to hurt from my hip to me head."
Doctors were puzzled, because of the severity of the injuries, how they were going to operate to make sure Jason Maxwell wasn't paralyzed. As days passed, both Jason and Doreen grew impatient but time would prove to be on their side.
"After about five days, they said we have an idea and we want to try him on physical therapy," Doreen said. "So here was Jason, with a neck brace and a back brace and he took his first steps. It was incredible."
The Maxwells have three children, Brooke, 15, Sydney, 6 and Drew, 5.
"They were too young to really know what was going on but they missed us and they missed our routine," Doreen said of the kids. "Brooke might have known a little bit but I don't think she knew how serious it. The kids just knew dad as Superman and they didn't understand how he could get hurt."
Jason incredibly was able to go home after 10 days in the hospital and did all of his rehabilitation as an outpatient. His parents, Linda and Joe Maxwell came from Georgia to help and Doreen's parents Don and Brigitta Marzi also chipped in.
With Maxwell on the mend, the family depended only on Doreen's salary. Bills began to pile up but that's when their friends from Rocky Hill and their hometown of Berlin came to their aid.
"We had done a good job and didn't have any debt but we put debt on credit cards and dipped into our savings," Doreen said. "We got help from all kinds of people. We got gift certificates for grocery stores and monetary donations as well."
Jason's friends Jon Zipadelli and Nick Rucci set up a savings account to help the family.
After a bit of time at home, Maxwell needed something to do. In his neck brace and back brace he went to school to become certified to be a building inspector. Shortly after completing the class work, he earned a job as the building inspector in Greenwich, a job he currently holds.
"I have always been the kind of person to stay positive," Jason said. "I think that had a lot to do with how I was able to bounce back. I never allowed myself to feel sorry for myself and didn't want anyone to feel sorry for me either."
Jason is quiet and driven by nature but both he and Doreen have said he is a changed man.
"Most importantly my perception of life has changed," Jason said. "I don't know that I too things for granted before but I know I don't take things for granted now. I appreciate all I have."
Doreen has seen the difference as well.
"He was always happy but he is more happy now," Doreen said. "I think there are more hugs around the house. He used to never want to take time off because it would cut into our income. Now he takes vacations and doesn't think twice."
"It's an old saying but it's a good one to live by," Jason said. "Don't sweat the small stuff."