HAMPTON IS MAKING THE ‘MAX’IMUM EFFORT
Fundraiser to be held Feb. 29 at St. Patrick-St. Vincent High
He had, as the saying goes, the world on a string. Just shy of his 24th birthday, Max Hampton enjoyed his job and the travel that came with it, while pursuing his passion of volunteering with kids and remaining athletic past his high school days at St. Patrick-St. Vincent.
Then it happened. A short dive at Lake Comanche near Stockton at a friend’s birthday party. Though drowning efforts saved his life — and all brain function — Hampton was left paralyzed from the chest down.
And, somehow, he’s remained upbeat.
“I’m doing alright, man, I’m hanging in there,” Hampton said from the family’s Vallejo home. “I stay positive.”
Hampton patiently answered questions recently with his mother, Annette Hampton, sitting close by. Though doctors have declared Max’s condition completely permanent, he’s gained strength in his biceps and trapezius muscles. His parents believe a stem cell procedure would help, but they can’t get it in the United States so family and friends hosting “Max’s Leap to Recovery” fundraiser Sat., Feb. 29, at St. PatrickSt. Vincent High School.
Max’s mom has already collected roughly 150 items for the silent auction, everything from gift cards to sports memorabilia in hopes of raising $20,000 — half of what’s budgeted for the pending procedure and other expenses. Meantime, Max remains in his four-speed motorized wheelchair with his mouth pushing the “joystick.”
There are good days and bad days, Max said.
“One day out of every two weeks, those days are bad,” he said.
“I’m not sure how he does it — where he is generating it from — but he is positive and engaged every single day,” Max’s mom said. “And I am so proud of him for that in and of itself. I’m sure he has dark moments, but he must keep them to himself.” Max’s father agreed.
“He’s an amazing young man with a strong sense of self and faith,” said Earl Hampton. “I like to think that I’m handling it well.”
Max can’t forget that horrific day that changed his life — and his family’s.
“I hit the water and couldn’t feel anything instantly. I knew I had to get my head to the top,” Hampton said.
Two friends close by realized there was a problem. One dived in, carrying max to land.
“I remember waking up in the ambulance,” Hampton said. “I had no idea how my friend put me on his shoulders and swam up. It’s pretty much a miracle.”
The experience remains a blur, grateful his EMT-trained girlfriend, Dominique Goodwin, was there.
“She saved my life,” Hampton said, grinning, “She’s still my girlfriend.”
When Max’s dad first got the news of his son’s tragedy, “I didn’t know whether he was dead or alive. Once I saw he was alive, I knew we were going to be OK.”
The injury — Hampton shattered his “C-5” disc at the top of his neck — was simply a freak accident, he said. Fortunately, “there was no pain,” he said. “I
just immediately couldn’t move anything.”
It’s far from Max’s first athletic injury. He’s fractured a foot wrestling, broke both his collarbones snowboarding, and dislocated a collarbone playing flag football.
He said his friends blamed themselves for his spinal injury after the dive.
“They didn’t force me. I don’t blame them at all,” Hampton said “I take full responsibility.”
Hampton was in ICU for 10 days, recovering from the one surgery he had to repair the shattered vertebrae, inserting a rod and plate to stabilize his spine.
Max has a comrade in Troy Plunkett, founder of the Spinal Cord Injury Active Network and, as it turns out, a close neighbor of the
Hamptons. The two met at the Kaiser Vallejo Rehab Center.
Plunkett, 34, was 17 when a Motocross injury left him paralyzed from the waist down.
“In those early days, it’s a difficult time when you are working, learning and hearing things in regards to prognosis of your injury and likelihood of what your future may be,” Plunkett said earlier this week.
“I remember rolling up to introduce myself with an Oakland A’s hat on and he said, ‘Oh yes, I know we’ll get along,’” said Plunkett. “Max is a talker, but I learned he was an intelligent young man that had an unfortunate accident and had a long and difficult road ahead. I encouraged him to make the most of the short rehab stay each and every day that could benefit his recovery. To focus on the small goals, take pride in the compliments and progress each
Each spinal injury is different, Plunkett continued, “but learning how to use the restroom, shower, feed, and with Max’s injury level, he needs a lot of physical care and support.”
Without the proper wheelchair, transportation, therapies and equipment, “it makes it very hard to make progress in being as independent as possible, much less make appointments and enjoy activities throughout the day,” Plunkett said.
Plunkett “helps me a lot,” Hampton said. “He shows you that there’s always a life out there. I know that, but hearing it helps.”
Debbie Lamb has known Hampton since he was 4.
“Pre-accident Max was inspiring in that he was so darn smart. He was always a few grades ahead and he even acted like he was a few years older too,” Lamb said. “Post-accident Max has been even more inspiring.
His positivity and his focus have tripled. Despite having to depend on so many people for so much, he’s still so upbeat and constantly educating himself on possibilities for improvement. Max and his family have been the most amazing welloiled machine since his accident. They’re so lucky to have each other.”
If Hampton never took that dive last July, “his career would be full speed ahead by now,” Lamb said. “This may slow him down but I think he’ll return to another engineering gig or something similar. After all, he’s still that same smart guy. It might just take him a little longer, that’s all.”
Earl Hampton said his employer, IBEW Local 595, “has been nothing short of amazing in their support of us during this time, allowing me to work from home whenever necessary.”
Max’s father added that he “couldn’t imagine how different it would be for us” with support of his colleagues, friends and family.
“Their generosity and support has been humbling,” Earl Hampton said.
Despite his current status, Max said his faith remains solid.
“I think about how blessed I am, how much people care about me,” he said. “How thankful I am to have friends and family and that there are people supporting me that I didn’t even know.”
The accident has given Hampton perspective.
“I took walking for granted,” he said.
“Max’s Leap to Recovery Fundraiser” is Sat., Feb. 29, St. Patrick/St. Vincent High School, 1500 Benicia Road, Vallejo, $40 donation, silent auction, music, no-host bar. For tickets and info, [email protected] or text (707) 7313560.
Max Hampton gets a helping hand from his mother, Annette. The family and friends host a fundraiser for the 24-year-old Feb. 29at St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School.