Tuesday, November 09, 1999

Clinton star recovers after collision

Clinton star recovers after collision
By Pamela Appea
The Ann Arbor News

It’s been nearly three weeks since Clinton High football star Ryan Stoianowski took his first step without the aid of a wheelchair or crutches.

Photo caption: Ryan Stoianowski, 17, is back on his feet again following a serious traffic accident eight weeks ago that put him in a wheelchair temporarily.

They were big steps for the football star and academic standout who had to watch part of his team’s winning season from the sidelines, grateful to be alive after a crash with a semi truck.

The crash happened while Stoianowski was driving back to his Irish Hills home after a homecoming event Sept. 22. After stopping before turning left onto US-12 from a side road, the teen looked to see if the way was clear, but two trees obscured one side of the road. He turned and the truck slammed into Stoianowski’s car.

“To this day, he didn’t even see the semi,” said Laurie Stoianowski, his mother.

It was Laurie and Michael Stoianowski’s 20th wedding anniversary that night. A driver and witness to the crash called the couple and put Ryan on the cell phone after he came to.

“We were so grateful that he was alive,” Laurie Stoianowski said.

He apologized for the car and said, “I’m hurt real bad,” she recalled.

The Stoianowskis reached the site of the crash within 10 minutes and then went on to the hospital, she said.

Injuries from the car accident were serious, but not life threatening. With a compound fracture in Stoianowski’s left leg, a broken right arm, a gash above his eye with some muscle and nerve damage near his eyebrow, doctors advised that Stoianowski sit out school for a few weeks.

“He missed quite a bit of school with the accident,” his mother said. “The most important thing for him was to keep his 4.0 (grade point average). And he was able to maintain it.”

As the football team captain who scored 13 touchdowns in the first four games of the season, Stoianowski had played for years. And for as long as he can remember, he and his father would go to the back yard and throw a ball around, Stoianowski said.

Football, he said, was not just a pastime but almost a way of ife.

The wreck changed that. Now Stoianowski, 17, says he has no plans on playing sports in college.

Sitting at the sidelines, Stoianowski saw his team go on to win three games without him, including advancing into the playoffs until losing to Addison.

He was proud of the team for winning.

“He’s a team player. And the team is more … than just Ryan and he would tell you that,” said Jim Pittman, athletic director at Clinton High School.

In addition to scoring an impressive number of touchdowns, Stoianowski also averaged well over 150 yards a game, Pittman said. But he added that the teen has never been the type who would think he’s the team’s only valuable player.

Ryan Stoianowski bounced back sooner than doctors predicted. His leg cast came off before schedule. His arm cast should be coming off before Dec. 1. Along with physical therapy, Stoianowski said he will have regular check-ups to keep tabs on the damage done to his eye.

Ron Schaffner, a math and sciences teacher at Clinton High School, said Stoianowski plans to become a civil engineer and is now trying to decide where he wants to go to school in fall 2000.

Stoianowski also recently began driving again. With money saved up from working in his father’s building business, Stoianowski said he plans to buy a car from his mother in a few weeks.

And Stoianowski said he will be joining the baseball team in the spring.

He has a message for the people who took the time to care for him after the crash.

“I’d like to thank my family and my friends and the teachers at Clinton, (and) my girlfriend and her family for their support,” Stoianowski said.

“And thanks for all the cards that everyone’s given me and the cards they’ve sent and most of all for keeping me in their thoughts and prayers.”

Originally published Tuesday, November 9, 1999