From tragedy to triumph UC student, recovering from accident, hits the mound

When Reynier Valdes was struck by a car outside of a dry cleaning store in Hoboken over a year ago, no one thought the Union City youth would ever walk again, let alone play his beloved game of baseball.

Many at the accident site even feared that the youth wouldn’t make it, such was the horrific nature of the crash.

What no one counted on was the steely resolve and determined nature of the victim.

Valdes, who was rushed by helicopter to the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark and went through a series of excruciating operations only to lose the lower half of his right leg and part of his left foot, was not able to attend his sophomore year at Union Hill High School and was home-schooled.

Last week, Valdes made his triumphant return to Union Hill to start his junior year, walking in the front doors to the wild cheers of his classmates. Said Valdes, "My classmates have been pretty cool to me. They show me a lot of support."

The only sign of his injuries is a slight limp, which is quite incredible considering the nature of the accident that occurred on August 6, 2002.

Valdes, according to eyewitness reports in a August 11, 2002 Reporter article, was sitting on a mailbox outside of a convenience store on 14th Street in Hoboken when a driver lost control of their car and careened across the street, hitting Valdes, pushing him through the storefront of a dry cleaners and pinning him underneath the car.

A doctor who worked next door rushed to the scene and administered first aid while the Hoboken police and fire departments prepared Valdes for his chopper flight.

According to Valdes, "It really hurt when it happened, but I think it hurt my mom and dad more knowing I was hurt."

And there began a long road of recovery for the strapping 6’4" teen.

Prosthetic leg

Physical therapy has become a part of life for Valdes. He was fitted with a special prosthetic lower leg that allows him to move with relative ease. He is currently awaiting prosthesis to be fitted on his left foot. Said Valdes of the therapy, "The therapy isn’t really painful, but there are some days when I am really tired and it’s pretty tough then."

Playing baseball was and is very important to Valdes, and he admitted last week that one of the first things he thought of after the accident was, "Will I be able to play baseball?"

Valdes has answered that question in the affirmative by returning to the diamond this past summer, pitching in the Union City Summer League. He posted a record of 3-3, and while not happy with the record, Valdes was ecstatic to be able to return to the field.

Valdes admitted last week that although he enjoyed being back out on the mound, "it was a lot harder."

Valdes’ mother, Louisa, suffered along with her son, but said last week, "Reynier got me through this."

Added Louisa, "It’s pretty much affected everything in our lives. You still have to wake up in the morning and go do the usual things you used to do."

One person who is effusive about Valdes’ return to Union Hill is the school’s principal, David Wilcommes. Known as a "hands-on" school administrator, Wilcommes was in Valdes’ hospital room the day after the accident. Said Wilcommes last week, "I know he’s [Valdes] had his bad days, but right from the beginning, he made up his mind to conquer this."
Added Wilcommes, "He can be very proud of what he’s done. From day one, he was determined to come back to school. He didn’t let it get him down. It’s great to have him back. Just having him in the building is really special. He’s over come a lot of obstacles."

Valdes’, in his typical manner, seemed pragmatic about the whole experience.

He said, "I just had to deal with it. I was angry at first, which is better than feeling sorry for yourself. But now I just want to put this behind me and get on with my life."


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