By Shira Kipnees, Correspondent
RAHWAY — Sometimes in life, even the greatest of heroes can become the victims.
John Donofrio Jr. is a man who did his best to protect all those in-need. However, this local hero, a police officer in Rahway, became a victim on June 28 after a serious motorcycle accident left him severely injured, broken, and in a coma.
On his way to work June 28, a woman made an illegal left turn in the Avenel section of Woodbridge on the border of Rahway that was caught on surveillance tape, and crashed into Donofrio Jr. Donofrio Jr.’s injuries included five broken ribs and brain trauma. The woman involved in this accident, however, is fighting the tickets associated with this incident, much to the shock of John Donofrio Jr.’s father, John Donofrio Sr. of Cranford.
“This accident is a result of someone who didn’t care about life.” Donofrio Sr. noted. “This woman is refusing to even pay the tickets even though she was in the wrong.”
Donofrio Jr. was aided by a Woodbridge officer who happened to see this accident and noticed the victim was wearing a police officer uniform. Donofrio Jr. remains in a coma in the trauma unit in Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick under the constant surveillance of his loving father, who described his son’s condition as “broken from head to toe.” Donofrio Jr. has undergone six surgeries so far, with a possibility of more to come.
“I sleep here,” said Donofrio Sr. “I only leave here to go home once a day to shower and change my clothes.” Donofrio Sr. also prays every day to both his wife, Barbara Ann, who died suddenly in 2000, and God, to let his son live.
Today marks the sixth week that Donofrio Jr. has been in a coma.
“I will stay here by my son’s side no matter what,” Donofrio Sr. explained. “When I was raising my children, I taught them that family was the most important thing in the world, and I know that if the tables were turned, my son would be doing the exact same thing for me.”
Donofrio Jr. was raised in Cranford, the oldest of four children. His father proudly explained his son was very involved in judo wrestling and regular wrestling all his life. He would frequently use his strength and skills to protect those who could not protect themselves.
“My wife pushed her kids to do sports and encouraged them to never be quitters or to ever give up,” the father tearfully said.
“Once when my son was in high school, he saw another kid getting picked on,” Donofrio Sr. proudly recalled, adding that his son stepped up and refused to let the bullies win.
Donofrio Jr. also spent his time wrestling with the Cranford Police Athletic League and training in judo at Cranford Judo with Olympic dreams. Donofrio Jr. even spent time in Japan training in judo, a sport where he earned a black belt, training for the Olympics.
However, Donofrio Jr.’s time in Japan came to a sudden end when his mother died in 2000 after catching a cold that turned into a staph infection. Donofrio Jr. was brought back home by his father to help take care of his younger siblings. Donofrio Jr., his father said, always took care of those in-need, and promised his mother he would become a police officer.
“He’s a good man, a good friend, and a good officer,” said Rahway Police Captain John Grahill of Donofrio Jr. “It’s very sad to see something like this happen to a guy like him.”
Donofrio Sr. agreed, saying, “he may be rough around the edges, but he has a good heart.”
Donofrio Sr. spoke proudly of his son’s heroics before his accident, including a time during Tropical Storm Irene when Rahway experienced devastating flooding. His father explained that his son rescued a fellow police officer trapped in a car who would have otherwise drowned.
Donofrio Sr. believes his son will be able to survive due to his fighter mentality, but remains unsure if his son will ever be able to walk or talk again.
“It’s a long road, a long road trip, but he’ll be taking small steps with his family by his side,” said the father who maintains a watchful vigil at the hospital.
Yet, Donofrio Sr. admitted, what he wants more than anything else is to have his son back.
“This has taken a big toll on my family and on me. They say ‘God only gives you what you can handle’ but can you take some off my shoulders,” confessed Donofrio Sr.
Donofrio Sr. knows it will be a few months until any major breakthroughs could happen with his son’s condition, but he already received a good sign.
After talking to his son about the family and his son’s friends, Donofrio Sr. asked for a sign, which he got shortly after in the form of his son raising his right hand and giving a thumbs up.
This father faces medical bills for his son that could hit $2 million by the end of the year. Some have even predicted by the time everything is said and done it could reach $6 million. This father, however, is not thinking about that right now.
“Whatever insurance doesn’t pay, I will. I would even take out a mortgage or sell my home to pay my son’s bills if I had to,” Donofrio Sr. said.
He is getting some help to pay these bills from a number of sources.
Many people far and wide have donated money to help pay the hospital bills, including the Paterson Police Department, where Donofrio Jr. was an officer until he was laid off last year, and the Rahway Police Department. Both are selling tickets for a night at Chris Michael’s Steakhouse and Lounge in Woodbridge on Aug. 19. Tickets are $50 and include food, a drink, and entertainment. All proceeds from this event and ticket sales will go to the Donofrio family.
For additional information, contact Chris Daniele at 732-397-4447 or at 201-522-7443.