OWLS HEAD, Maine — Cassidy Keene’s life has changed dramatically in the weeks since her son’s hand was severed in an accident in Rockland.
Before, Keene drove her twin boys to summer camp where they could swim and jump around like rambunctious 5-year-olds do. She’d go to work as a nurse and then pick them up, make dinner and put them to bed quietly.
Now the boys, Noah and Patrick, can’t sleep at night, Keene said. They wet their beds and are afraid of the dark — both new developments. They act out more. Noah can’t go to summer camp and it’s unclear if he will be healed enough to go to kindergarten on time. Doctors aren’t sure if he’ll ever have the full function of his hand back, she said.
Noah’s hand was severed in late June after a jump rope he had twisted around his wrist and dangled out a car window got caught on the wheel of the vehicle. The accident severed his left hand and left him with a broken humerus.
Rockland police initially had said the rope had become caught in the wheel of a passing vehicle but that later was determined to be incorrect.
Surgeons at a Boston hospital were able to reattach his hand. They put something similar to a large nail in his small arm to heal his humerus. They put pins in his hand and grafted skin to his wrist where it wasn’t going to heal itself. Noah’s arm was put in a camouflage cast, which since has been taken off.
Now his arm is in a splint and he will enter physical therapy next week. There is no prognosis yet. Doctors are waiting for nerve regeneration, Keene, 30, of Owls Head, said. The good news is he’s feeling pain in the hand — which is also the bad news for the suffering child.
“‘It’s swollen but it looks good.’ That’s what the surgeons say. But to a 5-year-old, it looks like Frankenstein. He has a pin that sticks out and he calls it his Wolverine hand,” she said.
Watching her small child suffer has been difficult for Keene. She tries to see the bright side of things, but mornings have become hard to cope with. That’s when Keene takes off Noah’s old bandage and redresses the wound.
“He screams in terror at his own hand. It terrifies him,” she said. “I would stand on my head and tell him knock-knock jokes if I thought it would make it better.”
One thing making it difficult for Keene to stay optimistic is an impending court case. Noah’s father is suing Keene’s mother, who was driving the car the day of Noah’s accident.
Keene’s mother, Sharon Setz of Rockland, watches the boys regularly. When Keene decided to go back to school to become a nurse when the boys were 8 months old, Setz was the one who baby-sat during Keene’s school hours and while she worked cleaning houses and at Amalfi, a Rockland restaurant. And now that Noah can’t go swimming — one of his favorite activities — Setz tries to make fun indoor activities for him, such as going to the toy store while his twin brother plays at summer camp.
When Keene heard of the lawsuit she was shocked.
“It was a really unfortunate time for an absent father to re-enter their lives. Court isn’t the place our family has to be at this point,” she said.
According to Keene, the boys’ father, Anthony Pignone, left them when she was six months pregnant with the twins.
The father’s attorney refused to comment for this story. Pignone was not reachable for comment.
“Cassidy will have to be involved in the litigation. There is no way around it,” said Keene’s attorney, Sarah Irving Gilbert.
Pignone’s lawsuit claims that Setz acted negligently by allowing Noah to dangle the jump rope out the window. It also said her negligence caused emotional and psychological trauma to Patrick. The lawsuit does not specify the amount of damages being sought.
“I was shocked. Absolutely shocked,” Keene said. “My mother was broken when this happened. She’s a caring, loving grandmother. You could see it in her face at the ER [on the day of the accident]. She was broken. I just wrapped her in a hug and told her, ‘I love you and it will be OK.’ Kids will be kids. My boys will be boys. I never got angry at her ever. Twins are a handful and they need a lot of love and attention. What happened was an accident.”
The community support Keene has gotten has helped her through the tougher times, she said. Part of that were fundraisers that collected $30,000 for the family.
“This has been the hardest thing my family has ever had to go through,” she said. “When you’re at the end of your rope, strangers throw you more rope and kept me afloat. We couldn’t be more grateful.”
Keene got time off work and doesn’t have to worry about losing her job, but she hasn’t had a paycheck since late June, when the accident happened. At the same time, she has needed to take many trips to Boston and stay there while Noah has surgeries. The money the community raised allows her to help Noah without having to worry about immediately returning to work, she said.
But life will never go back to normal for her family, Keene said.
“We will have to redefine normal moving forward,” Keene said. “It’s a huge emotional impact that’s hard to get over. As a mother, part of you changes when you realize you could have lost your child.”
“I try to have faith and look at the best in the situation — kids will be kids and they will fall and learn things,” she continued. “But then something like this happened and you want to follow them around like a warden. This was an accident — it was a split-second bad decision. That’s what accident means.”