'Everyday we thank God that he's here.'


Don and Marie Detgen with their
18-year-old son, Matthew, in his
Matheny classroom.

In May 2009, Matthew Detgen was hospitalized for six weeks as the result of a decubitus ulcer, a bed sore that develops from lying or sitting in one position too long, so that the circulation in the skin is compromised by the pressure.  "It was sort of God’s way of telling us we couldn’t handle his medical problems anymore," says his father, Don Detgen, a resident of Milford, NJ.  "He needed a facility that could."  Matthew has cerebral palsy, combined with several other medical conditions.  In September 2009, the 17-year-old was admitted as a resident at Matheny.  "If Matthew had been at Matheny," his father says, "they would have picked up on the skin breakdown.  We just thought it was some kind of diaper rash."

Matthew had been on a waiting list for residency at Matheny for about 2 ½ years.  The Detgens were driving their daughter home from school in Texas when they received a call, telling them there was a bed at Matheny for Matthew.  "I was in the backseat," recalls Marie Detgen, Matthew’s mother, “and I started sobbing, saying, 'no, no, it’s too soon.'" But, as painful as the decision was, she knew residency was the correct decision because, "all of his medical issues were becoming more evident, and he was getting older."  For four months, the Detgens brought their son home every weekend, but now, says Marie, "we feel more comfortable.  We don’t have to bring him home every weekend.  I think he’s more alert because of all the stimulation.  He wants to know everything that’s going on.  I can really see a difference in him."

Less than 24 hours after Matthew was born, he started having seizures.  Testing showed that he had some brain damage and the eventual diagnosis was cerebral palsy, which had been caused by lack of oxygen at birth.  “Anybody who has a disabled child,” says Don Detgen, "knows that you go through all kinds of different emotions – you’re angry, you’re resentful of others."  Matthew began in the early intervention program at Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington when he was six months old.  He attended a Mercer County regional preschool and also attended the Bucks County Intermediate Unit in Quakertown, PA.  His parents would bring him to Matheny in the summers for respite.  "When we would leave him for respite,” Marie recalls, “I would feel at peace because they did such a wonderful job.  It wasn’t easy having him admitted as a resident, but we know this is where he needs to be.  It’s just a phenomenal place."

"From the president to the PCAs  (personal care assistants), everybody’s just so professional, caring and competent," says Don Detgen.  "It seems that everybody knows Matthew’s name.  We can’t believe it.  The staff has genuine love for what they do and for the children – the teachers, therapists, everybody." 

"Everyday," says Marie Detgen, "we thank God that he’s here and for the people who work here and for the passion they have for our child and everyone else.  His medical needs prepared us.  He had many prior surgeries, but they were all scheduled.  This was totally different, and it showed us that we needed to place him here.  Now, when we spend time with Matthew, it’s relaxed, more fun.  When he was home, we were so exhausted from taking care of him."

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