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Fundraiser set for quadriplegic mom

A family still recovering from a ghastly car accident last year will hold a benefit Thursday to raise money for specialized surgery for the woman and for others with similar injuries.


Sixteen months after surviving a horrific rollover accident on Interstate 75, Denise Harris, paralyzed from the neck down, is still unable to brush her young daughter’s hair or prepare her son’s food.

Harris, 40, of Cooper City, has accepted that her life is forever changed, but she hopes to continue living it to the fullest.

Her husband, Kevin Harris, 43, will host a fundraising dinner for her Thursday at the Jacaranda Country Club in Plantation. The goal: to raise money for tendon-transfer surgery that could allow Denise Harris to regain the use of her fingers.

”Our kids still believe in Santa Claus, and they still believe Mommy and Daddy are going to get back to normal,” Kevin Harris said.

”We just hope that when they’re old enough to realize that isn’t going to happen, they’ll be able to handle it better because we’ve accepted it as a family,” he said.

Kevin and Denise Harris and their children, Alana, 7, and Taylor, 8, were returning from Disney World on June 28, 2003, when a car carrying teenage boys struck their Cadillac Escalade, sending it flipping down an embankment and into a canal off I-75 near Interstate 595 in Davie.

Denise, Kevin and Alana Harris were thrown from the SUV. Taylor remained inside, but reached shore. His sister suffered only minor injuries.

But the accident left Kevin Harris with a crushed pelvis and shattered femur bones that have taken eight surgeries and leg prosthetics to help heal. His wife was flown to a hospital, where she spent the next seven months trying to recover from a punctured lung, broken bones and a Cervical spine injury.

Denise Harris, a stay-at-home mom before the accident, is now a quadriplegic who must rely on her husband to bathe, feed and dress her. With tendon-transfer surgery, doctors would move Harris’ arm tendons to her hands so she would be able to use her fingers again.

The surgery will cost $100,000 per hand, Kevin Harris said. The family is already $2 million over its insurance limit, he said.

The Harrises hope to raise enough money from Thursday’s fundraiser to keep the Denise Harris Foundation for Paralysis funded for many years. After covering Denise Harris’ expenses, they say, they want to help others with similar injuries who cannot afford to pay for surgery.

”Believe it or not, this has made our whole family much stronger, and we want to be there for other people just like people have been there for us,” Kevin Harris said.

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