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Family asks for help in healing

August 26, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Christopher Heinen has made steady recovery from a 1999 car crash that left him almost completely paralyzed and unable to speak.

But Sunday night, he and his family decided it was time to go "right to the source" to seek a total recovery.

With the help of about 35 friends, Heinen's family and members of St. Agnes Church in Shepherdstown conducted a group prayer to ask for God's help in leading Heinen to complete recovery.

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Although nurses and doctors administer medical care to people with such injuries, they work under the grace of God, said Donna Acquaviva, who led the service.

"Sometimes you have to skip the middle man and go right to the source," Acquaviva said during the ceremony.

After the group participated in prayer and the singing of several hymns, Heinen was asked to come toward the altar.

Heinen has made progress in recovering from the injuries he suffered in the Dec. 19, 1999, crash, but he still has difficulty walking and speaking. To communicate, he uses an "alphabet board" to spell out messages to people.

When he was asked to come forward Sunday night, Heinen slowly walked toward Acquaviva using a walker. His body trembled as he gradually took one step at a time.

Acquaviva held her hands out as Heinen approached her, and placed her hand on his left shoulder.

Acquaviva then invited everyone to gather around Heinen and touch him if possible as she led the prayer. Those who could not reach him were told to place a hand on someone else in the crowd, creating a human link.

During the service, Acquaviva recounted the story about a man who recovered from a complication in the presence of Jesus Christ and asked for divine intervention for Heinen.

Heinen had been studying with his girlfriend on the evening of Dec. 19 and was returning to his home when his car ran off the shoulder on Country Club Road, said his father, John Heinen.

The car collided with another car, which struck Heinen's car on a the passenger side, his father said.

Although Heinen was wearing a seat belt, the passenger side of the car was pushed in so far that Heinen struck his head on the passenger side, his father said.

Heinen was in a coma at Winchester (Va.) Medical Center for about 10 days and spent six months at Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va.

Heinen can hear and understand conversation, his father said. The alphabet board he uses to communicate is a picture of a computer keyboard.

Heinen hits the letters to spell out a message, and the person conversing with him follows the spelling Heinen is making to understand what he is saying.

With the help of his father, Heinen returned to Jefferson High School last year and took advanced biology and music history classes.

His father went with him to class, took notes for him and helped him take tests through the communication system they have set up.

"It's been a long road back," said John Heinen.

Heinen has enough credits to graduate from Jefferson High, but his family is not ready for him to graduate because doing so will end some of the services he receives through the school, such as speech therapy, his father said.

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