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Despite injuries, teen won't let prom slide by



Published: Thu, May 3, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The outpouring of support from Scott Smaltz's fellow students has stunned him.

By RON COLE

VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Scott Smaltz can't remember the accident.

The 17-year-old junior at Ursuline High School doesn't remember leaving school April 10, or a crash in which his car ran through a guardrail on Madison Avenue Expressway, tumbled down a 30-foot embankment and landed on the roof.

He can't remember rescue workers' cutting away the car door to pry him out, rushing him to St. Elizabeth Health Center and later being transported via helicopter to Cleveland Clinic.

He's seen photographs of the car, a 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, crushed beyond recognition.

He just can't remember anything about it.

Glad to be here: "I'm thankful to be alive," Smaltz, of Austintown, said from a therapy room at Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Howland, where he has spent the past two weeks recovering from severe head trauma and a broken neck, collarbone and jaw.

"I must have a guardian angel."

He may not remember the accident, but he's sure to remember this Friday for the rest of his life.

On Friday night, Smaltz will pull on a black tuxedo, silver vest and tie, and leave the hospital for the evening to attend Ursuline's junior-senior prom at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Social Hall.

"I'll be excited to see everybody," he said Wednesday.

Friends say Smaltz's appearance at the prom is nothing short of a miracle.

"There's no way that we ever figured he would be well enough to go to the prom," said Smaltz's father, Bill. "We thought the rehabilitation would take months and months. This was all a big surprise to us that he has progressed so well."

"We consider him a kid that has had an angel on his shoulder," said Patricia Fleming, Ursuline principal.

The 5-foot, 9-inch, 185-pound member of Ursuline's state champion football team wears a neck brace and carries his left arm in a sling. The arm is partially paralyzed, but Smaltz is confident he will regain full use.

He undergoes three hours of physical therapy a day, and it will continue for months after he is released from the hospital, which he expects to be some time next week.

There with him: His twin brother, Rob, and girlfriend, Kristen Chance, have been by his side every day.

"She's been one of my biggest supporters," Smaltz said, holding Kristen's hand.

Kristen, an Ursuline sophomore, won't be going to the prom; Ursuline limits the dance to juniors and seniors only. So Smaltz will take Katie Cerimele, a friend whom he asked in late March.

Cerimele, who bought a prom dress that cost close to $300, said it will be a special night.

"The night I went to St. Elizabeth to see him after the accident, his mom told me, 'He won't be going to the prom,'" Cerimele recalled. "The only thing I could think was, 'Well, at least he's still alive because he so easily could've been dead.'"

Surprised by support: Smaltz, a member of Ursuline's student council and National Honor Society with a 4.2 grade average, said he was stunned by the outpouring of support.

Thirty to 40 friends showed up at St. Elizabeth the night of the accident, and carloads of classmates were driving to Cleveland.

"It got to the point where we had to say, 'Please, don't go,'" Fleming said. "The medical personnel had to do their jobs."

His Ursuline teammates have voted him a captain for next football season, even though he probably won't be able to play.

Helped with recovery: Bill Smaltz said his son was strong and physically fit before the accident, and that has helped accelerate his recovery. But it wasn't until a week ago that he realized his son would be OK.

"He was in the rec room at Hillside and the activity director put on a record, the song was the 'Electric Slide,'" he said. "Scott came in and started singing and dancing. That was the first indication we had that, hey, this kid is going to be all right."

That's also when thoughts of the prom started resurfacing.

"He won't be able to dance all night, but he'll walk in, talk with people and I'm sure, if he gets the chance, he's going to get up and do the 'Electric Slide,'" his father said.




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