PINE RIVER -- In 1993, Richard Treague of Pine River was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident near Backus.
Now 10 years later in a cruel twist, Treague's brother, Ronald Treague, is paralyzed, too. Ronald became a quadriplegic in a March 28 motor vehicle accident that happened on Highway 2 near Pine River.
The two brothers, who share many of the same hobbies and interests and who at times have worked together, now share the same ordeal -- life forever in a wheelchair.
"You have to learn how to do everything all over again," Richard said of his spinal injury. "It affects everyone around you."
Richard, 41, wasn't wearing a seat belt and admittedly was driving too fast for the dirt road he was traveling on in July 1993 when he rolled his car and was ejected from the back window, landing about 20 feet away. His brother, Ronald, 39, was a passenger in the car and escaped with only scratches.
It took months for Richard to go through intensive therapy, learning how to relive his life. He was married at the time with two young children. Now divorced, he is raising his 15-year-old son as a single parent. He lives in a handicapped accessible home in Pine River, built by Habitat for Humanity. Life has gone on. He said he reminds his son and 19-year-old daughter frequently to wear their seat belts.
"I tell them that every time they leave that house that if it could happen to me, it could happen to you," he said. "I didn't have a seat belt on. I'd say I was an 80 percent seat belt wearer back then. It was that 1 percent of the time I needed it and I needed it on that day at that minute. Ninety-nine percent don't work."
March 28, Ronald was a passenger in a truck driven by his father, Art. They had just left Art's home and were on their way to an auction when they were involved in a one-vehicle accident along the torn up construction area on Highway 2 about nine miles west of Pine River. Neither father nor son had seat belts on.
Ronald wasn't ejected from the vehicle yet he broke his neck and back in four places, among other injuries he suffered in the crash. He is able to move his arms but has very limited movement in a couple of his fingers. His fingers continue to burn and tingle as a result of his paralysis.
At the time of his accident, Ronald said he was hoping he would just die. He knew what his brother had gone through 10 years earlier and knew his accident was much more severe.
"I just knew," said Ronald. "I felt when I broke my neck and I felt my back when it broke. I figured if I ain't got my arms and legs, I don't want to be here."
Richard had a difficult time dealing with his brother's paralysis. He knew exactly what he was going through because he had been through the same thing 10 years earlier. Visiting Ronald in the hospital was more than Richard could take. At first he couldn't bring himself to visit his brother because it brought back memories of his own accident.
"He was moaning in pain and I knew what that felt like," said Richard. "It was just kind of a nightmare you couldn't fathom and to have it happen a second time. You lay there and 'what if' everything that you did that day. If we all said 'what if' all the time we'd all never leave the house."
Richard visits his brother Ronald every day now, trying to help him through the stages of grief he's going through, like anger and depression. Ronald returned home from North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale on May 2.
Ronald's wife, Laura, had to quit her job at Breezy Point Resort to care for her husband. He needs someone with him 24 hours a day, she said. The couple has four children, ages 13-21.
Their home wasn't handicapped accessible before Ronald's accident and it's made life nearly impossible since he's been home. Ronald is only able to access their living room and kitchen with his wheelchair. Laura moved their bed to the living room for Ronald, which is where they now sleep. The family needs to leave the living room when Ronald has to relieve himself, since his urinary and bowel treatments are performed there, too. Ronald's 21-year-old son, James, who helps care for his father, built a temporary wheelchair ramp to the Treagues' home, but that soon will need to be replaced with a permanent, more stable ramp, said Laura.
Ronald now takes showers at Richard's home since it is handicapped accessible.
Richard's goal is to help make life easier for his brother. That includes raising money to help make his brother's home handicapped accessible. He also would like to have his brother's driveway paved so Ronald could be outside. A family friend is planning to host a benefit for the family sometime in June.
"Every little thing he can do more each day will bring back a piece of himself," said Richard. "He can't take a shower at home. He's sleeping in the living room. He needs those little changes to give him back his dignity."
A fund has been established to help the Ronald Treague family. Donations may be sent to the Ronald Treague Benefit Fund, Pine River State Bank, Box 67, Pine River, MN 56474. To contact Ronald and Laura Treague to help make their home wheelchair accessible, call them at (218) 587-5931.
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