Westbury’s Matt Davis Fights Incredible Odds


Talk about a series of unfortunate events.

Matt Davis took this self-portrait in New York City. (Contributed photo)

In a rare moment of levity amidst her unrelenting family problems, Leslie Davis laughed when it was pointed out that her son Matt was living out the old blues lament, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I would have no luck at all.”

“It’s a heartwarming horrible story. You can’t even make the story up,” she summed up Matt’s troubles.

Matt Davis, 21, Westbury High School Class of 2017, seemingly turned a corner earlier this summer.

A series of complex brain operations at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan back in February ameliorated a lifetime of epileptic seizures that had made his life difficult.

“We won’t say he’s 100 percent cured,” Leslie Davis told the Westbury Times. “But we will say that it’s treatable now, thank God. He hasn’t had a seizure as long as he’s been on the meds.”

Unfortunately, the surgery also left him partially paralyzed, and Matt worked hard to overcome this complication.

On the night of July 23, he left his house for the first time on his own. The Davises live near Brush Hollow Road and Matt visited a friend and they to went a deli on nearby Prospect Avenue in the New Cassel section of Westbury.

While walking back to his house, and standing on the median that bisects Prospect Avenue, Davis was struck by a hit-and-run driver and suffered severe head trauma. He was taken to Nassau University Medical Center, where doctors stabilized him and put him in a medically-induced coma. He was then flown by helicopter to Lenox Hill Hospital. Again, he was operated on by the same surgeons who had performed his original brain surgery.Again, Matt Davis found himself in rehab, this time at the Northwell Stern Family Center for Rehabilitation.

“What happened was, after he got hit, he had uncontrollable seizures, so they want to make sure that he can get back where he was [before the accident],” Leslie Davis said. “[The accident] triggered it all back again, the paralysis and everything.”

Davis, a 19-year teacher at Nassau BOCES Barry Tech Center in Westbury, admitted that she felt guilty about letting her son go out that night, “But [his surgeon] told me, ‘Leslie, you can’t keep him in the house.’”

Robert Troiano, president of Westbury School District Board of Education and longtime family friend, said he was “crushed” when he got the text message about the accident on July 24.

“Even then, it didn’t hit me that the family was going to need money,” he said, pointing out the huge expenses of the surgeries and rehabs, the high deductibles, the helicopter trip from Nassau University Medical Center (after the accident) to Lenox Hill.

“Everybody’s touched by the story, but they don’t think it through about how expensive it is. There is no end to the expenses,” Troiano told the Westbury Times.

Troiano has known “Mattie” since he was 4 or 5, and to aid the family, he created a GoFundMe page on Sept. 2. As this was posted, the effort had raised $23,099 of the $25,000 goal. Many Westbury residents responded, with 238 contributions.

“The GoFundMe money will be used to prepare the house?” Leslie Davis was asked.

“Absolutely,” she replied, noting that people have been generous, and she expressed her profound gratitude.

“I just feel bad for Matt. He’s a good kid. Everybody in Westbury, the teachers and administrators, have all been very supportive,” she went on. “Because Matt made them proud. Matt made the movie, a documentary from the beginning [of the season] when the Westbury boys basketball team had their Long Island championship season back in 2018. That’s when he won an award from New York State, representing Westbury.”

Asked about her son’s dreams and aspirations, she said, “We had finished with the [rehab] from the brain surgery and we had gone to his neurologist and had gotten clearance [to go home]. He was thinking of buying a new camera. He’s into videography. And that’s a thing that he’s always had a passion for. He really tried to pursue that angle. He first went to [Fashion Institute of Technology], but the seizures stopped him. The same thing happened at Nassau Community College. It was really hard.”

She added, “My dream is that he pursues his love, and I do want him to go back to school.”

Asked on Oct. 5 how her son was doing, Leslie Davis simply answered, “He’s progressing. Just keep him in your prayers.”

She added, “I just talked to the physical therapist, and she told me we have to prepare the house for his return. We have to put railings and I have to get new doors and walkways. It’s a little overwhelming, but you know what? It’s going to be done.”

In talking to Matt’s occupational and physical therapists, Leslie related, she learned that “Matt has to stand comfortably before they allow him to do anything else. Right now, he’s able to stand with assistance on both sides.”

He’s looking to overcome the paralysis on the left side of the body, the same side that he had successfully worked to restore use of. Unfortunately, the accident brought it back.

Leslie praised the involvement and co-parenting of her ex-husband Michael and the family unity necessary to help with her son’s difficult road back to recovery. Her other sons are Marquis and Michael.

“It just warms my heart, and it makes Matt happy,” she said of her family’s response to her son’s problems.

This is the narrative that Troiano wrote for the GoFundMe page:

We’d like to you to know about Matt Davis and his journey. And we’d like to ask for your help.

Matt has been fighting to overcome the effects of epilepsy since he was 5 years old. But today, at age 21, he’s fighting to overcome the toughest challenge of his life.

All of us get up each morning and try our hardest, but Matt Davis sometimes has to work harder than most. That’s been Matt’s reality for most of his 21 years, but since the night of July 23 it has been even more true.

The doctor who performed brain surgery on Matt earlier in the year gave him clearance to leave the protective cocoon that was his house to visit a friend that night. Around 9:30 p.m., they went to get snacks from a local deli. As they walked, a car came from the rear and swerved into Matt, throwing him across the hood, into the windshield, up in the air and down on his head before speeding off and leaving him for dead.

Matt was rushed to Nassau University Medical Center with a fractured skull, bleeding on the brain, and bone chips floating in his head. Before being transported by helicopter to Lenox Hill Hospital, where his brain surgery had been performed a few months before, doctors at NUMC put him into a coma.

Matt was in for the fight of his life.

Matt has been fighting since he was just 5 years old.

Mattie (as his family called him then), was starting kindergarten when he began having bad dreams. His little body didn’t seem right. His arms always felt heavy. For a while, his mother didn’t know what to make of it, until his brother saw Matt violently convulsing in a seizure as he slept.

The doctors were skeptical at first. They could find nothing wrong with Mattie after two years of testing. But his family knew better. They continued advocating for him and pushing the doctors to continue looking. It wasn’t until Mattie had a seizure while he was in the hospital that the doctors finally came on board. It was a “Grand Mal,” a severe episode that causes its victim to fall unconscious—a seizure that can even be fatal.

And so began a lifelong journey for Mattie and his family– his mother Leslie, his father “Big Mike,” and brothers Marquis and Michael. It was during these early days that he would sometimes catch Leslie in a private corner of their home, in tears.

He would tell her, “Mommy, don’t cry. Its going to get better.”

But it didn’t.

A mix of medicines and dosages were tried, but the seizures grew worse and more frequent, sometimes four or five a day.

As Matt’s body grew into a 6-foot-2, 260-lb. frame, the seizures would knock him to the ground, leaving him scarred and bruised. It was time to look for a non-pharmaceutical solution.

The search led to Dr. Ruben Kuzniecky and his team at Lenox Hill Hospital. Matt bravely agreed to a series of three complex and risky surgeries to remove the part of his brain that was believed to be causing the convulsions. A year went into the planning, including designing and manufacturing specialized surgical equipment.

Although the last of the 10-hour surgeries in February of this year went as planned, paralysis unexpectedly set in on the left side of Matt’s body. The doctors had done all they could. The rest was going to be up to Matt.

Through hard work and determination, Matt overcame the paralysis. He managed to walk out of the rehab facility at Glen Cove Hospital, albeit very slowly, and return to his home in Westbury where he completed his recovery.

What about the seizures that had handicapped his life?

They were gone…erased…a thing of the past. Matt was finally free from the convulsions that had become a daily part of his life.

Everything was moving in his favor.

Then came the night of July 23 and that accident.

Today Matt is back in rehab, this time at the Northwell Stern Family Center for Rehabilitation. Although he is again experiencing paralysis, doctors are cautiously optimistic about his chances for a full recovery.

While Matt works to get better, his family and friends are working to raise funds to remodel his home to enable him to complete simple tasks like taking a shower safely or getting out of the house in an emergency in addition to covering the cost of medical bills not paid for by insurance.

What can you do?

You can join our team, Friends of Matt, by making a contribution, of any amount, and sharing Matt’s story with others you feel may be willing to support Matt’s full recovery.

Matt Davis is shown with his mother, Leslie Davis, a teacher and president of the Westbury NAACP chapter. (Contributed photo)

In a recent interview, Troiano told the Westbury Times that when Davis got to the rehab facility, they discovered that the accident had left two broken bones in one of his legs, complicating his physical rehab.

The Islamic Center of Long Island (ICLI) asked its members to contribute to the family, noting that “Lesley Davis, president of the NAACP Westbury Division, is a longtime supporter of ICLI. She has addressed our community as a speaker at ICLI events and joined us as an attendee.”

Leslie Davis, an interview with the Westbury Times, praised the mosque and its members for their efforts on her family’s behalf.

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