As many longtime residents know, Urbana is a close-knit community where friendly neighbors help each other during times of need. A cup of sugar, pet sitting or help with the carpool are easily found. But it is during a serious crisis when Urbana residents often display the best definition of a good neighbor.
The Hageman family, who live in the Villages of Urbana, experienced this recently after Cliff Hageman was in a horrific motorcycle accident. On Jan. 9, Realtor and Urbana resident Lisa Giuliani held a large party and silent auction to benefit the Hagemans at the Urbana Volunteer Fire Department. With the help of many friends, neighbors and local businesses, Giuliani’s event was a big success and raised close to $14,000 for the family.
But the Hageman’s story started long before the New Year. Before leaving for work on Sept. 9, Hageman posted a Facebook page, “Prayers for the Hageman Family,” because he was worried about the lump his wife, Rebecca, had found under her arm. “Little did we all know that those prayers would be greatly needed even more just a few minutes later!” she said.
Cliff let their daughter Cassidy, a senior at Urbana High School, take the car that morning to drive her brother, Elias, to Urbana Middle School. So, Cliff got on his motorcycle and made his way to work in Gaithersburg, where he and his brother own Exit Realty Plus. As he pulled out of a gas station, Cliff saw a car coming around the corner and into his lane. The driver apparently didn’t see him.
As much as he tried, Cliff couldn’t avoid the approaching vehicle and was struck hard on his left side and leg. The injury was so severe, Hageman was at risk of bleeding to death from the severed arteries. Luckily, bystanders recognized the danger and made tourniquets out of their own shirts, saving his life.
Cliff was transported to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, and then later transferred to Johns Hopkins Shock Trauma. Another artery was severed and once again he almost bled to death. He endured several surgeries, life threatening complications and agonizing pain until Sept. 26, when Rebecca said they made the difficult decision to undergo another surgery to amputate his leg below the knee. “He has had several more surgeries since, for a grand total of 18!” said Rebecca.
In late October, Cliff started rehabilitation, and finally returned home on Nov. 10. “About 150 friends and neighbors were there to greet us,” Rebecca said. “They gathered in front of our home with signs and balloons and whistled and cheered! We were overwhelmed with love, as we still are.”
Neighbors created a meal train to organize dinners for the family since the accident. Rebecca’s fifth grade class at Centerville Elementary made a large blanket and collected a basketful of treats to take back and forth to the hospital. “The blanket is beautiful,” said Rebecca, “and huge. It’s large enough to keep the whole family warm!”
Rebecca still had to undergo surgery for the lump — with good results — and neighbors were there to help. “So many friends,” Hageman said. “Especially Kelly, Melanie and Terri and their husbands, have been there for us since day one.” They kept the Hagemans and their extended families company, made meals and raised money for the ever growing medical bills.
Friends made hundreds of wristbands in Cliff’s favorite color, orange, engraved, “Stand with Cliff,” and sold them for $3. Neighbor Eric Sheidhauer had a fundraiser at his restaurant, The Lodge, on Buckeystown Pike in Frederick, right before Christmas.
A few weeks ago, in early January, Lisa Giuliani hosted a successful fundraiser at the Urbana Volunteer Fire Department. The event also coincided with Cliff’s birthday, so he was surprised with a large cake and crowd rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
“The evening was fun, light hearted and a celebration of friends and neighbors coming together to support a beloved local family,” said Giuliani. “Approximately 300 people spent the evening mingling, enjoying gourmet desserts, sipping cocktails, dancing to the DJ and bidding on well over 100 auction items. Cliff seemed in great spirits. There is no question the Hageman’s could feel the love in the room.”
Rebecca Hageman heartily agreed. “Our family has been blown away by the love and support from our friends and neighbors,” she said. “The Urbana community has reached out and embraced us. It is such a blessing to live in Urbana!”
Unfortunately, Cliff has a long recovery ahead. On the day after Christmas, he was readmitted to shock trauma and required more surgeries because of an infection. He stayed in the hospital for more than a week and is now home on IV antibiotics, special wound treatment and nurse visits for at least six weeks. He won’t be able to get a cast or prosthetic for at least a few months.
After the ordeal, Rebecca says she learned that the police officer who was on the scene of Cliff’s accident never followed up, and the woman who hit Cliff was never cited. “I had to call the Montgomery County Police Department a couple of times,” Rebecca said, “and two months later, she received two tickets.”
Rebecca said the family is now looking forward and focused on Cliff’s recovery and is grateful for the kindness of friends and neighbors. “We really weren’t comfortable asking anyone for financial help, but since Cliff is self-employed, this has been very difficult,” Rebecca said. “So our friends stepped in.” The local fundraising organization, The Patty Pollatos Fund, is also helping, as they have helped so many in the Frederick area over that last 20 years. (For more information on the fund, see www.ppfinc.org.)
This month, Manda Mackintosh of Urbana’s Art and Soul set up an event so Friday, Feb. 6, proceeds from Mackintosh’s annual “Art from the Heart” Valentine’s event will benefit the Hagemans. All ages are welcome to the studio at 2510 Urbana Pike, Suite 104, to create Valentine’s pins for $5 each, to keep, or to donate to sell and raise funds for the family. For more information, visit the Urbana Art and Soul Facebook page, or call 301.418.5458.
Rebecca Hageman said the family has grown and learned much from the ordeal. “Cass and Eli are incredible help,” she said. “They help with his meds, wheelchair, whatever he needs. They have seen what perseverance is first hand.”
“The other day, two boys – a current and former student of mine – came and shoveled our driveway for free. You never know the hand life will deal you, but having the love and support from the people in Urbana really helps us make it through.”