Matthew Fleurant: Inspired family to re-direct philanthropy to nursing, healing

Matthew Fleurant, age 4, is thinking more about his next video game session than the chain of events set in motion by a near-fatal accident last October.

That’s OK. His family — including grandparents Paula (above) and Ken Fleurant — tell the story not for his benefit but in gratitude to the first responders and healthcare professionals who helped save their “miracle grandchild.”

Matthew was in the back seat when his parents’ vehicle crashed on Highway 10 west of Stevens Point. His mother, Tracy, sustained moderate injuries while Matthew’s four brothers and sisters were mostly unharmed. Matthew and his car seat, however, were somehow thrown clear and pinned beneath some wreckage. The little boy wasn’t breathing when rescuers arrived. He had suffered two broken legs and multiple bone fractures to his head. He was airlifted to the trauma center at Ministry St. Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield.“The emergency response people weren’t sure he was going to make it,” Ken Fleurant recalls.

Specialists mobilized at the hospital. They encountered a boy with critical injuries but a fighting spirit. It took three days in intensive care and another week in the hospital before Matthew went home wearing a neck brace, leg rods and assorted cuts and bruises.

His recovery was rapid and complete. For that, the Fleurants credit their grandson’s toughness, his parents’ devotion and impressive work by the medical professionals, therapists and social workers who facilitated his healing.

They decided to re-direct their existing UW-Green Bay scholarship, which the family created in 2006 to honor Ken’s retirement as a French and Humanistic Studies professor. Previously awarded to students pursuing careers as language teachers, the scholarship will now benefit those with financial need who are pursuing studies in Nursing or Human Development. The new criteria also reflect Paula’s academic and career interests. A registered nurse, she earned her bachelor’s from UW-Green Bay in 1975 and master’s in 1986.