Mateo has come a long, long way. His next challenge will be running a 5K on the first day of summer. Read on for the story of a teen who is quite simply unstoppable.

August 26, 2018. A new school year was about to start. Fifteen-year-old Mateo decided to make the most of the last warm evenings of the summer. 

That’s what he was doing that fateful night. And, for the first time, he decided to follow his friends into an abandoned building they used to rummage around in, just for kicks. 

Watch out! Someone’s coming! Fearing they’d get in trouble if they were caught, the youngsters hurried to the bottom of the roof they had climbed up to explore. It was late. And very dark.
Mateo was behind one of his friends. She picked the right way to get down. Mateo didn’t.

Unbeknownst to him, he headed straight toward a 25,000-volt power supply. As his friends watched on in horror, what was later determined to be an electrical arc shot through his body and he fell 18 feet into a high-voltage area. That’s when he became engulfed in flames.

But one of his friends climbed down and covered Mateo’s body with his own to put out of the fire. 

We got a call from the police around 10:20 p.m. We went straight to the site of the accident. His friends told us Mateo couldn’t feel his legs. It was terrifying.

Gustavo, Mateo's dad

Mateo remained conscious for the 60 minutes it took for the emergency responders to figure out how to rescue him with putting themselves at risk. 

As soon as they were able to extricate him from the site, they rushed him to Sainte-Justine, where 75% of serious pediatric accidents are treated every year in Quebec. 

“I’m sorry. I love you.” That’s what my son said in the emergency room. We promised him we’d be there for him.

Tina, Mateo's mother

A few minutes later, Mateo was put into a medically induced coma, where he would remain for the next three weeks to spare him unimaginable pain and help accelerate his recovery. Pneumonia, infection, cardiac arrest: there was no telling what the coming days and weeks would bring. 

Mateo Accident 1
Mateo Accident 2
Mateo Accident 3
Mateo Accident 4

A few minutes later, Mateo was put into a medically induced coma, where he would remain for the next three weeks to spare him unimaginable pain and help accelerate his recovery. Pneumonia, infection, cardiac arrest: there was no telling what the coming days and weeks would bring. 

Mateo went through nine operations, countless dressing changes, high fevers, intense pain, fluctuating vital signs… and two code blues. His time in the intensive care unit was anything but smooth sailing. But after about a month, the doctors confirmed his life was out of danger. And he wouldn’t have to have any of his limbs amputated. 

Even in the most critical moments, the doctors took the time to comfort Mateo’s family and explain what was happening. They looked after so much more than his physical injuries.

Tina, Mateo's mother

Four months later, Mateo was back home just in time for the holidays. But his battle was far from won. His wounds were not easy to heal. His pain was not easy to manage. Rehab exercises became part of his daily routine, as did making up for all the time he lost at school. 

We were very lucky. Mateo never complained. He just pushed forward, determined not to give up, no matter what.

Tina, Mateo's mother

When a family is faced with an emergency like this, community support makes all the difference. Mateo’s parents had their own community to turn to, but they also had the extended family at Sainte-Justine.

Donors like you play an important role in the Sainte-Justine community. You are key partners for our medical and research teams. Shower stretchers, mobile ultrasound scanners and X-ray machines, specialized chairs, skin graft instruments: Mateo needed a wide range of state-of-the-art equipment. And you are the reason Sainte-Justine has it.

In fall 2019, Mateo went back to school and started playing sports again. Without any restrictions, other than to respect his recovering body’s natural limits. Life was back to normal. 

On June 20, let’s get moving for Mateo!

Mateo is graduating from high school this year. He is getting ready to undertake a physical challenge he has been training for for months. He will be part of the Je bouge pour Sainte-Justine event on June 20 at 10 a.m., when he’ll run through the streets of Saint-Lambert, along with a police escort and the support of his school, Collège Durocher.

We invite you to take part in the challenge along with Mateo or contribute to his online fundraising page. 

Mateo 2020

Mateo says he is #scarredforlife. As dramatic as his story is to read, he’s the one who will have to carry it with him for the rest of his life. But he won’t let that stop him. Not by a long shot.