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When Maria Morgan left for work on Monday, July 11, 2011, there was no way to know it would take her an entire year to get back home.

That morning, a driver in a pickup truck ran through a red light into the driver’s side of Morgan’s car, according to police reports, knocking her into a coma for more than two months and leaving her incapacitated.

Exactly one year later to the day, she finally returned home.

The last year has been “a living hell,” said her husband, Todd Morgan, a St. Mary’s County commissioner and program manager for defense contractor SAIC.

“It’s horrific,” he said.

While Maria Morgan is now back living at their waterfront home in Lexington Park, she is still suffering from the effects of a traumatic brain injury. She cannot walk on her own. She cannot swallow food yet and her speaking is still very limited, Todd Morgan said.

She is confined to a wheelchair and is fed through a tube in her stomach. Her health has had its ups and downs over the past year, but her husband said there are positive signs.

“We’re getting better,” Todd Morgan said. “We’re looking forward to progress.

“I need people to pray for her recovery, to pray for my kids,” he said. “The kids have been so instrumental to me.”

Maria Morgan gets physical and occupational therapy at home, to sit her up on her own, to stand her up on her own, to try to walk her on her own. Then there are the exercises to keep the muscles and hands loose. In addition, “we’re really working hard on the cognitive skills. I’m trying to get that trigger mechanism going inside,” Todd Morgan said.

He has his wife spell out words using letter cards, not simple words, but longer ones like “Patuxent” and “Chesapeake.”

She can speak in a whisper to say three- to four-word sentences, he said. “She does come up with comments, like ‘That’s ridiculous,’” Todd Morgan said.

Everything at home was kept as it was the day of the accident, he said, to keep the environment familiar.

But there are changes now. Maria Morgan sleeps in a hospital bed and has nurses attending to her.

Their daughters, Lauren, 19, and Megan, 15, are both in Charleston, S.C., for the summer, where Lauren attends college. Their son, Andrew, 18, is still at home, but is preparing to attend Dickinson College in Pennsylvania this fall.

Maria Morgan’s return home on the one-year anniversary of the accident was not planned. “I knew it was the day of the accident — [National Rehabilitation Hospital] did not,” Todd Morgan said, when they prepared to discharge her. “It’s an unbelievable coincidence.”

After the accident at the intersection of Route 235 and Millstone Landing Road, Maria Morgan was transported to Prince George’s Hospital Center for 13 days of intensive care, then moved to the Moss Rehabilitation Center in Pennsylvania, then to the Asbury Solomons continuing care community and then to the rehabilitation hospital in Washington, D.C., before coming home.

“My goal is that she stays home. I want her to recover the best God’s going to let her in our home environment,” Todd Morgan said.

Looking back over the last year, “You’re missing your wife. You’re missing your best friend. You’ve got the kids” to talk to, but they are living their young lives, he said. “The community’s been so good to the Morgan family. We’re all trying to cope and adjust now that she’s home.”

Maria Morgan is still on the payroll as a civil servant at Patuxent River Naval Air Station as people have contributed hundreds of hours of leave to her. “The outpouring of love for her has been tremendous,” Todd Morgan said.

He could have resigned from his second job as a county commissioner, but those duties have helped to keep him sane, he said.

“The commissioner life has been great. I’m not worried about Maria 24/7. It does provide a different form of mental stimulation. My wife is my life and my life is my wife, plus the three kids and the two jobs,” he said.

Maria Morgan was driving the third vehicle going through a green light at the intersection to go southbound on Route 235 that day, Todd Morgan said.

Michelle Alice Mason Malone of Mechanicsville pleaded guilty to failure to stop at a red light and negligent driving on Jan. 6. She was fined $460 for the two tickets, court records show.

Malone’s father, Dwight Mason, said, “She’s taken it very hard,” and isn’t ready to comment.

jbabcock@somdnews.com