March 14, 2014 was a day that changed many lives of the Beta Omicron Chapter of Alpha Sigma Phi. Martin Surma (a pledge at the time) was critically injured in a freak accident that left him with a fractured skull, massive concussion, bleeding, and swelling of the brain (we want to emphasize that there was absolutely no alcohol involved in this situation). He was air-lifted to Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne and taken to the STICU (Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit). This left many of the brothers in a state of shock and worry. Would he survive? Would he ever be the same if he did survive? If he recovers, will his parents still allow him to come back? What would his parents think? Would they blame the fraternity for any reason? So many questions left unanswered.
When I arrived at the hospital that evening I found several brothers in the lobby along with his parents having a very uplifting conversation considering the circumstances. Martin’s family lives 2.5 hours away from Trine U. After speaking with the parents for about 30 minutes or so, the surgeon came out and informed us that they needed to remove a piece of his skull to relieve the pressure being caused by the brain swelling. This surgery was expected to take at least 3 hours. We were informed that the next 48 hours were very critical. The brothers left the hospital that evening with heavy hearts but with a plan to provide as much help and support as possible.
I arrived the next day at the hospital and virtually every single brother was in attendance in the lobby alongside with several administrators from the school. On the table in the lobby the brothers had provided a very large lunch for Martin’s family. I walked in with a sense of pride for my fellow brothers. They weren’t going to let this situation beat them. They were determined to help Martin’s family out in any way they could. We were then informed that Martin was starting to move around and even attempting to grab things out of the nurse’s hands. While we took this as a good sign, we were informed that this was actually a fairly common occurrence with head injury victims. The initial prognosis was that he could be in the hospital for at least 3-4 months even in the best case scenario.
At this point, the brothers started talking about fundraising. The brothers started a charity online. They started a campaign on social media, #StarkeCountyStrong. They ordered wristbands to “sell” for donations, as well as t-shirts to help generate funds. Bound and determined, the brothers banded together to help our extended “family” in need.
Throughout the next several weeks Martin made daily progress. He kept reaching milestones quicker than the doctors had anticipated. His progression went from responding to stimuli, acknowledging commands, talking, and breathing on his own. Every obstacle thrown at him, Martin overcame with a determined tenacity. He was determined, but at the same time, frustrated the poor nurses with his antics. On one occasion, a couple undergrads and I were visiting with him. After we left the room we heard a beeping and one of the nurses ran into the room behind us and yelled, “Martin, sit back down!”
Within a month, Martin was deemed ready for therapy and was moved out of the STICU. Once again, Martin moved quickly through this therapy. When they would ask him to solve simple math problems he would just roll his eyes and complete a calculus problem. (Martin is studying Electrical Engineering) Within a couple weeks Martin was able to go back home. Then on April 23, 2014 Martin showed up at the Old Gal to surprise his brothers. Walking, talking, acting, like nothing happened. The undergrads were overjoyed to see their brother again.
On April 25th of 2014, several student organizations hosted a 5k Color Run with all the proceeds going to the Surma family. There was a presentation before the start of the race in which the brothers presented a check to the Surma family. Martin’s sister, Katie accepted the check for $9,000. This was the money raised not only from the Color Run but also from the website fundraisers.
On May 7th Martin will undergo an MRI to determine whether he can get his skull replaced and thus ending his journey of recovery.
We have been informed by his parents that he will be returning to Trine University. Initially, his parents were going to send him to a local community college when/if he recovered. However, because of the support they received from the undergraduates and alumni, they changed their minds. They decided that he needs to return. So, with any luck he will be back at Trine University in the fall to start off the new school year with his brothers, as an active full member. The accident may have cracked his skull but it couldn’t break his heart and soul.
I was witness to the generosity of the undergrad brothers at this time and I for one am very proud of them. Every day there was someone at the hospital checking on Martin, lending support and keeping his family company. This is a testament to the bond and love that brothers share. We may have our problems at times but we will always be there for each other in times of need.
Alpha Sig for Life!
A Note from the Family:
We truly appreciate the support the Beta Omicron Chapter gave us in our time of need. We can’t thank you enough for all the hard work, prayers, and monetary donations given to our family. We have been truly blessed to have such great people in our lives. We are proud of these young men, as should all of you. Please accept our sincerest thanks.