Man injured in wreck returns to Walla Walla to share thanks, hope

Nick Maniscalo, injured in 2008, will speak at area churches this weekend.

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Nick Maniscalco will be in town this weekend to repay this community the best he can.

Maniscalco, 21, will speak at City Church of Seventh-day Adventists and Walla Walla University Church this weekend, telling his personal tale that began 26 months ago.

He and his parents will also be paying visits to folks who ministered to the Coeur d'Alene family during the worst months of their collective lives.

Jan. 27, 2008, was a Sunday morning. A terrible storm had arrived in the Valley, but Maniscalco had a job to get home to.

The 19-year-old -- then a student at North Idaho College -- was driving his green Jetta west on U.S. Highway 12 from College Place after visiting friends at Walla Walla University.

He was scheduled to be at work at a T.J. Maxx store at noon. The storm, however, sent the teen on a different journey.

The highway was covered in ice, remembered Nick's mom, Debby Maniscalco. As her son entered Lowden, he lost control of the Jetta, sliding across the highway and broadsiding a heavy equipment trailer belonging to Dunning Irrigation.

The force crushed in the entire side of the car, shoving the trailer more than six feet through a hurricane fence.

It was then the first miracle occurred, Debby believes. Walla Walla resident Vic Sword, himself the father of two young men, came upon the scene almost immediately.

"He told us Nick had passed him on the road and he was driving very steady and safe," she recalled. "Vic stayed with Nick until the ambulance came. He was a very kind man who didn't just drive past."

Maniscalco was found with only one injury -- a depressed skull fracture that caused severe brain injury.

Her son was in a coma and the storm continued to prevail, she said. "They asked us not to come, because the roads were so bad," Debby explained. "But, you know...."

Nothing was going to hold the Maniscalcos back from reaching Nick's side. Weather did not allow him to be life-flighted out, but they were determined to fight their way here.

Debby and her husband, Guy Maniscalco, understood they were going to encounter a very ill son -- not the same boy who reveled in waterskiing and excelled in sports.

What they didn't expect to find was a hospital teeming with Nick's friends, as well as friends of friends, all waiting for the family's arrival.

Waiting, too, for the same news as the Maniscalcos: What was going to happen?

Having Dr. Perry Camp practicing at Providence St. Mary Medical Center was the second miracle, Debby said Wednesday.

Camp told Maniscalo's parents the young man had about a 50 percent chance of surviving and the next few days would be critical. Pressure on the brain was being relieved with a tube and seizure medication was helping the situation.

The next day, a four-hour surgery done by Camp repaired what could be repaired. The rest of Nick's recovery would have to come with time.

The boy's condition remained critical as he came out and retreated back into a coma, Debby said. The neurosurgeon expressed concern and the Maniscalcos prepared themselves for possible difficult decisions.

The family remained in the area for a month as Nick continued to survive his injury. The extent of his recovery, however, was a complete unknown. Fluid continued to threaten Nick's brain and his other organs reacted to uneven regulation.

Yet the support shown the family never wavered, Debby and Guy said. The area's Adventist pastors, particularly Doug Brown from City Church, visited on a daily basis for much of the time. Nick's friends from the university kept vigil, bringing their homework to do in the halls and waiting rooms. One renting a home in College Place opened the home to the family so that lodging was never a question, Debby said. Vic Sword, first on the accident scene, came at least twice to the hospital to check on Nick and pray with the family.

The young man was eventually transferred to an acute-care hospital in Idaho, where he spent another seven or so months, finally coming permanently out of the coma that bent his body, and undergoing rehabilitative therapy.

"It's been a long road for those who have watched him," Debby said, adding that her son's life is forever altered.

Her middle-born child has had to relearn how to walk, eat and talk. Every day is spent on therapy and studying in Nick's efforts to reclaim his world, she said.

Yet God has been present the entire time, the Maniscalcos said, showing his face in every instance. And that's the story Nick is bringing back to the town that cared for him as he began the long road to recovery -- a road that ends somewhere yet out of sight. Nick told his parent God was always on the sidelines in his life, but no longer, "'Now I need him,'" Nick told Debby.

Nick will speak at Walla Walla University Church, 212 S.W. Fourth St., in College Place at 7:45 p.m. on Friday, and at City Church, 2133 S. Howard St., on Saturday at 8:30 and 11 a.m.

As well, the family plans to visit several of the individuals, such as emergency responders and medical providers, who tended to Nick in one way or another while he was here. "We want them to know all their work is not useless," Debby said.

"We feel really blessed that, for whatever reason, God has given us a second chance. We hope to bless others, to give somebody hope."

The kind of hope that's been shared with her family by others. Twenty-six months after the accident, the 21 year-old has a learner's permit and is relearning to drive. He swims again and has transitioned from a walker to a four-prong cane, working hard to do normal, daily activities.

Nick takes one college course at a time and hopes to become a mechanic. "Retention is not easy ... but he keeps improving," Debby said.

"Although the healing process has slowed down, Nick is still on the mend. We have received stories of other brain injuries that healed over four years and another over seven years," Guy wrote on a blog that was established to keep people up-to-date on Nick.

"It may not sound encouraging, but it still gives us hope. God is not done with Nick yet."

Hindsight is 20-20, Guy writes. Looking back, we can see better how God leads. It has been a faith builder for us. God has been so good to us."

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom.

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