STAR-BULLETIN / FEBRUARY 2007
Hawaii's Janevia Taylor, who has been in a coma for a year after a car accident, has received strong support within the community.
Taylor joined by loved ones on birthday
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Friends and family of Janevia Taylor wouldn't allow her to be alone on her 23rd birthday, even if the site of the celebration wasn't at the place for which they had hoped.
Taylor has been hospitalized in a coma for one year after her life-threatening car accident. The Hawaii basketball player who had completed her UH career a few weeks before the accident was joined by about 100 guests at the Mountain View Convalescent Hospital in Sylmar, Calif., yesterday.
Her mother, Joy McClendon, is eternally thankful for the support from friends and strangers over the past year, manifested in the Friends of Janevia Taylor Fund and through flowers and cards that adorn Taylor's room.
"They gave her prayers," McClendon said. "Prayer fixes everything, as far as I'm concerned. I believe all these people praying for her made a difference."
After her accident, Taylor has gradually improved over the past year with subtle body movement. The hospital staff now refer to her state as a "semi-coma," but there's no telling when she might actually rouse herself.
"Any improvement is encouraging," former teammate Tanya Smith said. "I keep dreaming she will wake up because she talks to me in my dreams. I know it's been a while but I still have faith for Nevi."
McClendon hoped her daughter could be moved home before her birthday, but those plans are on hold indefinitely until a physician can be found to check on her regularly.
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FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Janevia Taylor, in action against New Mexico State, spent her 23rd birthday yesterday with 100 friends and family.
One year later, the plea remains the same.
Wake up, Janevia. Just wake up.
Tomorrow marks a year since former Rainbow Wahine basketball player Janevia Taylor crashed into the back of an RV mobile home with her car near Lancaster, Calif., causing her severe head trauma and multiple internal injuries. After she was cut from her vehicle and rushed to a hospital, doctors had to induce a coma to save her.
She's been asleep ever since.
No one has remained more steadfast in their belief that Nevi will awaken than her mother, Joy McClendon. Within the last week, McClendon was hopeful that Taylor could be moved from the Mountain View Convalescent Hospital in Sylmar - a specialty facility an hour drive away and her location for the past 11 months - to the family home in Lancaster.
It was thought that perhaps a more family-friendly environment would help rouse her, especially during her 23rd birthday yesterday. But Joy had trouble securing a qualified physician who could make regular house calls, and Janevia's move is on hold for the foreseeable future.
A setback, yes, but her friends and family countered by taking the celebration to her. More than 100 people were expected to visit Taylor in her decorated room on her birthday, to share a laugh in her company and wish her well.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Janevia Taylor, far right, celebrated Senior Night last year with classmates Pam Tambini, Amber Lee, Cassidy Chretien and Brittany Grice.
Because of that level of support, McClendon remains as optimistic as she possibly can.
"That day will come when her eyes - the lights come on, and she's going to look at everybody and say, 'Whoa, what's going on? Hey Mom. Hey Mom,' " Joy said. "And I can't wait until that day gets here."
McClendon doesn't know exactly what happened that awful day around 2 p.m. a year ago, but based on the pattern of the accident, it was likely that Taylor fell asleep at the wheel, and crossed lanes in the roadway before the car was wedged under the backside of the RV. She was the only person in her car, and the only one hurt in the collision.
The accident came just two days after her 22nd birthday. Taylor was engaged, set to be wed in August last year, and she was just a semester removed from her business degree at UH and her beginning work on her goal of starting her own clothing line.
To Wahine coach Jim Bolla, who oversaw her during her final three years at UH from 2004 to 2007, Taylor was more than just a dynamic play-making guard and the 15th Hawaii player to crack 1,000 career points.
"One of the things about Nevi was always just her smile," Bolla said. "She always had that real upbeat smile and personality, and just a great competitor.
"It's just a tragic situation that this type of accident happened, and puts her in a situation where you would never, ever in your wildest dreams think of Janevia Taylor being in. Our prayers are with her and we're continuing to wish her the best."
Her numerous wounds have long been mended, and the Mountain View staff has seen enough feedback to stimuli from Taylor to refer to her condition as a "semi-coma."
If someone holds her hand, she'll squeeze. If someone goes from one side of the room to another, she'll track their movement with her eyes open. Once reliant on a breathing apparatus, she can now breathe on her own at times.
Perhaps most encouraging, Taylor recently spoke while being regularly attended by a nurse.
She twice said, "Hey!" and moved her hand.
Those types of responses sometimes occur in comas. Some in her state are known to span years and decades before coming to consciousness, while others never wake up.
Taylor's friends and family are doing everything they can to bring her back.
In December, the 2007-08 Wahine - including former teammates Saundra Cariaga, Amy Kotani, Iwona Zagrobelna, Shannon Nishi, Tanya Smith, Catherine Cho, Dita Liepkalne, Megan Tinnin, and Leilani Galdones - visited Taylor on their road trip to the Women of Troy Basketball Classic in Los Angeles. It was the first time they had seen her since the accident.
Smith, who concluded her Wahine career in the spring, remembers being profoundly moved by seeing the bubbly Taylor unable to consciously respond.
"I was tentative, personally," Smith said.
"It was really, really hard seeing her like that. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to face seeing someone I love in that state. I keep thinking she would wake and be like just playing and make us all laugh."
Her high school coach, Paul Akahoshi, and teammates from San Bernardino High School also check in and visit regularly. Serenda Valdez, an assistant coach with Vince Goo in Taylor's first year, visited in May, as did Neal Iwamoto of the UH media relations department.
Shortly after the accident, the Friends of Janevia Taylor Fund created a much-needed financial boost for her family (which didn't have health care). The account is closing after paying out more than $27,000 in donations for her medical expenses, said its manager, Natalie Webb.
Fortunately for Taylor's family, the state of California picked up the medical tab moving forward from a recent date, McClendon said.
There remain bills to pay off, but Joy is grateful to all who donated nonetheless.
"My daughter doesn't know just how much she was loved all around," Joy said.
"It's going to be something because I want to show her when she recovers, just how much she was loved, because I don't think she knows. I'm proud to say I thank God for all the people who supported with donations to raise the money to help her."
When - and it is a matter of when, not if, according to her mother - Janevia comes to, not everything will be the same as it was. Her former fiance, Fernando, has moved on with his life. And there would likely be a level of rehabilitation involved with recovery.
But as one final piece of encouragement, each of the last two Sundays, Nevi smiled.
"That's the first time in one year I've seen my baby smiling," Joy said. "I feel very blessed to still have my child. She could have been dead and in her grave, but she's alive ... I'd say we're the luckiest and most blessed family in the world."