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After the Accident: ‘I Don’t Have Words to Say Thank You’

A horrendous car crash left Kevin Murphy doubting he would ever walk again. His Kaiser Permanente physical therapist had other plans. Pictured, Murphy standing tall at City Park in Benicia, California.

It was 6 a.m. on December 13, 2019, and Kevin Murphy, a retired Oakland police officer, was driving north on State Route 29 just outside of Vallejo.

Murphy, 50, was on his way to Napa Valley College for a final exam in the paramedic program. When traffic slowed, a car barreled into him from behind, sending him into a semitruck, crushing his body and his SUV like a soda can.

The force fractured his left femur and shattered his right, broke his left tibia and gave him a compound ankle facture. It also shattered his pelvis and broke his elbow and sternum. He was bleeding from internal and external injuries. A lot.

“It took the paramedics and fire department 90 minutes to cut me out,” Murphy said. “I was awake the whole time, and I thought if I closed my eyes, I would die. I got 10 liters of blood in the emergency room and stopped breathing.”

After 6 surgeries and 18 days in Kaiser Permanente Vacaville Medical Center, Murphy came home, lying on his back, unable to move.

“Sidney never took any excuses, never let me dog it, or not give my all.”

Kaiser Permanente Physical Therapist Sidney Soberon at his home in Concord, California.

“I couldn’t move, I couldn’t walk, I was stuck on my back, and that’s when I met Sidney Soberon,” Murphy said of the Kaiser Permanente Home Health physical therapist who, over 2 months, would help him sit up, get into a wheelchair, use crutches, and eventually start walking.

When Soberon reviewed Murphy’s case before his first visit, he knew it was going to be a challenge.

“As far as musculoskeletal injuries go, I had never seen anyone hurt that bad,” Soberon said.

Real-time communication with Murphy’s surgeons and doctors, coordination with home health nurses and occupational therapists, and timely access to equipment were all key to Murphy’s progress, said Soberon.

But there was something more.

“He knew exactly what he was doing,” said Murphy. “I was depressed, and very humbled. But Sidney never took any excuses, never let me dog it or not give my all. His attitude and personality brought out the best in me. When I was down and thinking I would never be able to walk, he never let me give in to that.”

Soberon said he drew on his own life experiences as a dad, a son, a physical therapist, and a college football player to “coach him up,” so that Murphy could see his potential for recovery. Murphy’s family was also right there with him, offering encouragement and support.

“‘Coaching up’ means if someone, say a patient or an athlete or a kid, is feeling negative, you teach them to redirect their thoughts,” Soberon said. “If they make a mistake, you point out what it taught them. I learned a lot of that from my parents and from recovering from my own football injuries. It’s not like I pushed him that hard, I just reminded him what his goals were in the time frame we had before things in his body could freeze up.”

Kaiser Permanente member Kevin Murphy, left, and Kaiser Permanente Physical Therapist Sidney Soberon.

Today, Murphy no longer uses the walker he relied on for the last several months and is moving around on his own with the help of a brace on his lower left leg. He hopes to one day start jogging again.

In addition to physical therapy, Soberon and Murphy also credit Murphy’s wife and son, who made sure he fought to keep going when he felt like his life was destroyed.

“Even though he had a lot of pretty bad injuries, together we kept telling him what his potential was and that his prognosis was pretty good,” Soberon said.

For Murphy, that made all the difference in the world.

“I don’t really have the words to say, ‘thank you.’”


physical therapy

This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. I had similar injuries. I was run over by a vehicle walking down the side of a 2-lane road after leaving a party. I spent 2 months in traction. They could not do surgery to put a pin in my femur where I had two compound fractures because of high blood pressure. My knee joint was also crushed. It was too risky to administer an anesthesia. I’m really glad that you back on your feet. My accident happened 35 years ago and I have not had problems until recently. I developed severe arthritis in my knee. I had my knee replaced at a KP hospital. The care was amazingly exceptional. The physical therapy was great. After your physical therapy ends, keep the exercise up on a regular basis. Be ready for neuropathy on the top of your feet because of nerve damage. There are pain-relieving cremes that can help. Good luck with your recovery.

  2. Amazing story! It teaches us to appreciate life as we know it. Often times we through life complaining of what we don’t have, but what we DO HAVE is good health. We are alive and we can move around on our own. This is all we need to make everything else happen. We need to start appreciating what we do have. This story is amazing, thank you for sharing! Very inspirational, I wish all the best of luck!

    1. I keep telling my 91 year old husband, 7 years post left hemi ischemic stroke with total right side paralysis, he has a lot to be grateful for. Eight days hospitalization at rehab in Kaiser Vallejo in October, 2013, and he’s just kept improving. Just returned from grocery shopping, is totally capable of all ADL, and now he’s doing a home exercise program. Yes, he’s not as physically or mentally as capable as he was pre stroke, but he’s so much better than anyone expected.

  3. Physical therapists at Kaiser give world class care! One of my dearest friend’s kids was in a horrific accident on the Grapevine years ago. The daughter thought she would never walk; she does now. She also thought she would never have kids; she has two children. She is now a 30-year-old adult, who thanks to Kaiser Vallejo’s therapists lives a full life. I have admired and received Kaiser care since before I become an employee — thank you, Kaiser.

  4. What an amazing story of two individuals that destiny brought together. Kevin, you must have worked so diligently to walk once again — congratulations and be proud of yourself. Sidney, you were a God send to Kevin and I would expect to many other patients. Thank you for being a hero and an expert in your field, you clearly make a positive difference in a person’s life.

  5. Its stories like this from Kevin and Sidney that humble me to do my best each and every day! Never never give up. Thank You. Gary

  6. Congratulations, Kevin Murphy! With Sidney’s support, I’m not surprised you are winning!
    Never give up, never give up!!

  7. Awesome work, Sidney! Proof of what a difference it makes when we work from the heart and truly see the people we are trying to help. I’ve been a nurse a long time but I’ve been the patient in great need more than once and I am so appreciative to those who’ve helped me physically and mentally when the outcome looked so bleak. Way to go, Kevin and family! You’ve got a lot to live for! Best to you in your new adventures. You’ve got this!

  8. It’s so wonderful to read about the challenges one’s given and how they overcame them with the help from positive, caring people. Murphy, thanks for not giving up and focusing on the end goal. It’s easy to say “I’m done,” but you didn’t. Sidney, you are an asset to humanity. Thank you for taking the time to care and invest in Murphy’s recovery and to all the patients you care for.

  9. Wow! Inspiring story! Way to go, Kevin and Sidney, for giving it your all and never giving up. Together you were able to make the impossible possible again.

  10. Way to go Sidney! We are so proud of you and well deserved! It is so heartening to hear stories like this especially in these trying times. It reassures us that the work we do as Home Health therapists is very important to so many of our members and much appreciated. Thank you Sidney and Mr. Murphy for sharing your story.

  11. Thank you for sharing your personal story of courage, hope and strength, Kevin. And a BIG thanks to Sidney for dedicating his energy and focus to support Kevin and his family through this extremely difficult time.

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