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Community rallies to help Gresham family

After a car accident left John Zuver paralyzed from the chest down Nov. 16, his family expresses thankfulness for support


The first day he saw his dad after their car accident, 2-year-old Jaden Zuver of Gresham told a nurse at Renown Trauma Center in Reno, Nev., his daddy needed a big Band-Aid.

“There, that’s better,” Jaden said, placing the Band-Aid over John Zuver’s hand. “I love you, Daddy!”by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Jaden Zuver, 2, offers his dad a hug in Renown Trauma Center in Reno, Nev. The father and son were in a serious car accident Friday, Nov. 16, while traveling from Gresham to rural Nevada for Thanksgiving week. After a severe neck fracture, John is paralyzed from the chest down. Contributions to the Zuver family can be made through U.S. Bank and GiveForward. They will help with medical expenses, bills and modifications to the family.

John and Jaden were traveling on rural Nevada roads at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, on their way to see relatives in Fallon, Nev., when the beige 2000 Mercedes-Benz John was driving hit two 800- to 900-pound Black Angus steer, continued about 150 feet and rolled into a ravine.

As John, 36, came in and out of consciousness, Jaden was awake, alert and scared. A man named Bubba who had been traveling behind the Mercedes discovered debris on the road, spotted the car within minutes and called 9-1-1, waiting about 45 minutes with the father and son until paramedics arrived.

Jaden, who was placed in a rear-facing car seat in the middle of the backseat, received minor injuries, but one of the cows had shattered the windshield, hit John and broke his neck.

Just weeks before, John had researched car seats and studied consumer reports, buying and installing a new car seat for Jaden.

“My little angel is alive because his dad pays attention to details and never cuts corners,” said Clarissa, John’s wife.

Even with a severe spinal injury, John, a Multnomah County maintenance operator, knew the relatives awaiting him and Jaden for Thanksgiving week would be concerned, and asked a highway patrolman to call his father-in-law and wife.

Within minutes, Clarissa, who was on-call as associate veterinarian at Columbia Equine Hospital in Gresham, received a call from her father that her family had been in a serious car accident and had been flown to a Reno Hospital.

Clarissa thought John might have whiplash and back pain, but she didn’t anticipate hearing John had a severe neck fracture that had paralyzed him from the chest down.

“It was unreal,” said Clarissa, 33.

She took the next flight she could out of Portland on Saturday morning — it was delayed an excruciating three hours — and was met in Reno with a hug from her father, who led her to the hospital.

Clarissa had prayed she’d make it in time for John’s afternoon surgery, and it was delayed until Sunday morning. The surgery stabilized John’s neck and removed bone fragments from his spinal cord to prevent further trauma.

“We have to communicate through head nods, hand gestures and eye blinks,” Clarissa said. “We take it day by day. With the ventilator, he can’t talk.”

Clarissa and Jaden are staying with one of Clarissa’s classmates from vet school, who offered an extra car and connected Clarissa with daycare at no charge for Jaden. They are also surrounded by the support of extended relatives on both sides of the family.

“I try to be thankful for my blessings,” Clarissa said. “My almost 3-year-old little boy is running around playing, fairly oblivious to the dramatic change in our lives. Although his life will be forever different, John is here with me and continuing to fight.”

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - John and Clarissa Zuver made Gresham their home six years ago when she became an associate veterinarian with Columbia Equine Hospital. Staff at the hospital calls the family very generous and giving. Jaden, the couples son, is almost 3.

John and Clarissa met in high school when John was the DJ at the skating rink in Fallon. They married at 19 and 21, and made their home in Gresham six years ago when Clarissa joined the staff at Columbia Equine Hospital.

Clarissa describes John as a high-energy, outgoing guy who loves to camp, ride motorcycles and keep up on the latest technology trends.

“He has an overall zest for life,” Clarissa said. “He’s an amazing father who wants Jaden to experience everything.”

In response to the news of John and Jaden’s accident, Columbia Equine Hospital, East Hill Church, family members and friends have rallied behind the Zuver family.

“Clarissa is very compassionate and caring with patients and animals,” and that’s being returned tenfold,” said Kim Mosiman, practice manager of Columbia Equine Hospital. “They are a really giving couple and so family-oriented.”

A comfort food buffet and silent auction held at East Hill Church on Wednesday, Nov. 28, raised more than $30,000 for the Zuver family, and a GiveForward account has been established to help the family with its medical expenses, bills at home and future renovations to make the family’s multi-story home wheelchair accessible. by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO -

“Your first response is disbelief,” Mosiman said. “You look at your own situation and see how in the blink of an eye everything can change and you can have your whole world turned upside down. There are so many long-term effects financially that it’d be nice to take it off their plates so they can focus on his recovery.”

For now, it’s not clear how long John will be in the hospital, when the family will be able to return to Gresham or if they will need to relocate for John’s care.

But the outpouring of support the family has received is helping them focus on caring for each other.

“People are just so generous, compassionate and giving,” Clarissa said. “It really takes my breath away. The littlest things help us so much. We all truly have something to be thankful for.”

TO HELP

A GiveForward account has been established for the Zuver family. To donate, visit giveforward.com/accident-fundraiser/zuverfamilyfund.

The money raised at the benefit Wednesday, Nov. 28, has been added to a U.S. Bank fund. Donations may be made to any U.S. Bank in the Zuver family’s name.




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