October 25, 2014

Elyria
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Jim Muth, Firelands teacher injured in ’11 car crash, dies

Tuesday night — after days of updates that spoke of Jim Muth’s return to the hospital from a rehabilitation center and bouts of seizures that left his body exhausted — Facebook’s “Pray for Muth” page gave an update no one in Lorain County wanted to hear.

Muth

Muth

It read, “Team Muth, Jim will no longer be in pain. The seizures took over Jim and they were unable to keep them at bay. He was taken off all life support yesterday and passed away late this evening.”

Muth, a husband and father of two, was 41.

The “Pray for Muth” Facebook page went up Nov. 22, 2011, about 24 hours after a horrible two-car crash on a rain-soaked Russia Road. Donald Kneisel, 79, was traveling less than 1 mile from his home and, with no headlights on, attempted to pass a slow-moving vehicle on the road just a stone’s throw from Oberlin Road near state Route 58. He slammed into Muth’s Toyota Camry after crossing the double yellow lines. Kneisel died a few weeks later on Dec. 14.

Jim Muth’s mother, Sandra Muth, penned the message as she did almost daily to update the nearly 3,000 followers on her son’s condition. It was the kind of heartfelt message only a mother could write as a goodbye to her son.

“Jim fought valiantly and with great will,” she also said. “It was a long fight, often with much pain. It is good he no longer needs to have one more test run, one more needle inserted, one more medication to take or one more seizure to feel.”

The news was not what many wanted to hear, even as in recent weeks Muth was moved back to the hospital to fight an infection and began having debilitating seizures. His decline was a major setback in a recovery process that at one point saw him interacting with family members, learning how to walk and excelling at physical therapy.

“Jim has had some rough days lately,” a status update said just a week ago. “He is still in the hospital and is not responding much to anyone. He has leads all over his head to do a 24-hour EEG. Last summer, Jim had several seizures, which were the beginning of the setback we had for months. The seizures have been very stressful to his entire body. As time progressed the medication they had placed Jim on seemed to be doing the trick at keeping the seizures at bay or at least diminished their severity. However, there seemed to be days when Jim’s actions would indicate some signature telltale signs that he had been visited by an unwitnessed small seizure, but these were guesses. So we were very hopeful that this summer would see Jim making great strides towards healing.”

Many other followers of the page expressed that same hope, letting their words act as a wave of prayers to will his body whole again.

“Our church has prayers for him just about every week,” Allen Knapp posted to the page June 15. “He’s on our prayer list.”

“Special mention of Jim at Washington Avenue Church in Elyria this morning,” wrote Don Mosher this past Sunday. “Lots of prayers coming your way.”

The first few entries in the ongoing memorial page, which would become the vital link between a family grappling with the devastating injury of one of their own and the public’s need for information on a person it had grown to love, were of grainy photos of Muth clad in a classic red polo shirt with the words Firelands High School embroidered on the left side.

There were pictures of him with his family and church members and dozens of photos of Muth with the girls’ volleyball players he coached at Firelands.

He was a social studies teacher there and his absence has been felt every day since the accident. Candlelight vigils, a multitude of fundraisers and even the sale of T-shirts and plastic wristbands were the mediums in which community members channeled their pain.

“The kids loved him. The faculty loved him. He was just very well known through out the Firelands community,” said Superintendent Robert Hill.

Hill was not with the district when Muth’s accident occurred, but he quickly received a crash course on what the teacher and volleyball coach meant to the district. Muth’s wife, Charlene Muth, is a language arts teacher at the middle school, so the reminder of how the family continued to cope was there daily.

“I guess you can say he was just a fantastic human being,” Hill said.

But it was on Facebook — the social media site with more than 1 billion users — where Muth was chronicled as more than just an accident victim. To readers, he was introduced as a man known by many different titles — “the volleyball coach, friend, teacher, husband, father, and inspiration to our everyday lives.”

However, the third day after the accident, the severity of what his new life was shaping up to be was spelled out in heartbreaking words that foreshadowed the long road ahead.

“We have made it through the first 24 hours, the doctors are saying the next 72 will be the most critical,” his mother, Sandra Muth, wrote. “Jim has a very serious head injury. He is still in a coma — not induced. He has a broken arm and much bruising. They had believed he had a broken femur, he does not. He is getting excellent care. He would be overwhelmed with love for you all. Just don’t stop praying.”

The heartfelt note describing his condition set the stage for what the “Pray for Muth” page would become over the next year and a half: a place for family members to celebrate the triumphs and seek support during the setbacks.

Dec. 18, 2011: “It is probably a good thing that Jim is unaware of how much we watch him every day, looking for any new movement and signs of improvement.”

Jan. 20, 2012: “Jim made me LOL tonight. Several times as a matter of fact. For the few of you that may not know what LOL is, it means “laugh-out-loud,’ ” wrote Sandra Muth after one of her many visits. “I was giving him a foot massage and he moved his foot as if what I was doing was bothering him. I looked up at him, furrowed my brow and asked him if I had hurt him. Before I could get the full sentence out and just as I finished furrowing my brow, he furrowed his brow. I know my face registered shock and I asked him, “Did you just do what I thought you did”? I furrowed my brow again and he immediately did likewise. That is where I burst out laughing.”

March 31, 2012: A little music, a little Star Wars, a little Padme, some basketball and a lot of love and chit chat. Jim seems to be in good spirits. He can only listen to the chit chat but his eyes can speak volumes.

The page showed the resilience of Muth’s family, who refused to ask “Why?” or give into the destructive feelings of anger toward Muth’s situation.

Instead, every day with Muth was lauded as a something to remember — all the way to the end.

“Each person leaves a different void in our lives and the void Jim will leave will be huge,” was what his mother wrote in her message announcing his passing.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.