Matt ‘The Cat’ Maw Set to Bounce Back

The Salt Lake Tribune, March 2000
Sure, Matt Maw is pumped by his promised April visit with Superman, but what he really wants to do is cross the street.

Sure, Matt Maw is pumped by his promised April visit with Superman, but what he really wants to do is cross the street.

Maw, 22, was a world-class power tumbler until a training mishap five weeks ago left him with almost no movement in his arms and legs. The gymnast, who was working toward the 2004 Summer Olympics, attempted a triple back tuck maneuver in practice Feb. 23 when he slipped and landed on his head, breaking two vertebrae in his neck.

Actor Christopher Reeve, a quadriplegic, will appear at a benefit in Ogden on April 13 to raise funds for Maw’s medical bills.

That excitement is more than two weeks away, so Maw concentrates on feeding himself from a hospital bed and dreams of directing commandeering his motorized wheelchair across Harrison Boulevard to visit friends at Weber State University.

“Yeah, I think I’m on track to do it today,” Maw said about his plans to leave McKay-Dee Hospital briefly under escort. “If Darren OKs it. I think I’m ready.”

Darren Coleman, the physical therapist who is studiously stretching Maw’s legs, working to widen his range of motion, nods in assent. It looks as if the young man will get to make his journey.

“You should see the wheelchair,” Maw grins. “It’s got four gears and it tilts back . . . goes about 8 miles an hour.” He scooted out of the hospital in the device last week and spent about 45 minutes outside. Progress now for the injured athlete is measured in small increments, but it’s no less intensely felt.

Reeve, a national spokesman for people with spinal cord injuries, already was scheduled to make an appearance in Salt Lake City for a motivational seminar. Maw’s aunt, Tami Hendricks, contacted Reeve about her nephew’s injury, and Reeve responded.

Weber State then agreed to host Reeve at the school’s Dee Events Center for the 6 p.m. appearance. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted for the Matt “The Cat” Maw Trust Fund, at America First Credit Union, to help offset expenses from the accident.

Financial concerns are daunting. Paula Limburg, Matt’s mother, said her son has no health insurance. “And Medicaid has not yet been approved,” she said, “although we have submitted the mountains of paperwork and hope it is approved within another month.” In addition to what she knows are mounting hospital costs, Limburg worries about the prospect of modifications to her Smithfield home to accommodate Maw’s injuries.

“We had just moved into our new home last August,” she said. “Now it is a 2-week-old construction zone as we prepare for Matt. To see the brand-new bathtub we added being removed to make room for the area Matt will need . . . a bathtub we’d used maybe a dozen times …that was hard.”