An Abington family is dealing for a second time with the trauma and heartbreak of seeing a child severely injured. Stephanie Guarino's kneecaps were shattered when a bank robber's car struck her. And her brother Donny is still recovering after being struck by a car two years ago.
Eighteen-year-old Stephanie Guarino used to enjoy working out at the gym, going inline skating and playing shortstop for the Abington High School softball team.
A high school senior, Guarino liked to hang out with her friends and going to school.
But that changed last September when a suspected bank robber fleeing police struck Guarino’s car head-on in Whitman center. Now, the teenager does not know when she’ll be able to do her favorite things again.
Guarino has endured excruciating pain and painful rehabilitation on her road back to health — and her battle to regain a normal life is not over.
Her parents, meanwhile, are dealing for a second time with the trauma and heartbreak of seeing a child severely injured. Their son Donny is still recovering after being struck by a car two years ago.
“We’ve become very strong because of this,” said their mother, Monica Guarino, 39, who works at the Target store in Kingston.
On Sept. 27, Stephanie Guarino left school at 1 p.m., as usual, to hang out with friends at Marylou’s Coffee. After leaving the coffee shop in Whitman center, Guarino got into her Nissan Maxima, put on her seat belt and pulled out of her parking space, she said.
That was when she saw Whitman police cruisers coming toward the four-way stop sign in the town center.
Guarino said she could not get out of the bank-robbery suspect’s way because cars were parallel-parked beside her on Washington Street.
A blue van, allegedly driven by Robert Dunbar, 27, of Randolph, veered into her lane and struck her car head-on, she said.
A federal grand jury later indicted Dunbar, and he pleaded innocent to a single count of bank robbery stemming from the robbery of East Bridgewater Savings Bank on Route 58 in Hanson.
“Because of his stupidity, what do I get out of this? I’m scarred for life. I don’t get anything good,” said Stephanie Guarino.
A friend who witnessed the crash told Guarino her car spun around twice and hit a fence. The bank-robbery chase had reached speeds of 70 mph, according to the FBI.
“I was conscious, and I was in so much pain. This lady was at my door, holding my hand, saying it was going to be OK, ‘just try not to move your head.’ It was kind of tough,” she said.
Rescuers broke her car door, put her on a stretcher and into an ambulance for a MedFlight helicopter ride to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
She was hospitalized in Boston for a week with two broken knees, a shattered right ankle, and metal in her right knee cap and right ankle.
Guarino then spent a week in the Braintree Rehabilitation Hospital before coming home.
Since the crash, she has faced excruciating pain, with some days better than others, her family said.
“For four months straight, it was like hell for Stephanie,” said her father, Don Guarino, 42, a landscaper at Stonehill College in Easton.
“We had to move her whole body from the bed onto a commode for four straight months. She couldn’t leave her room, couldn’t take a shower, couldn’t bathe. I had to give her blood-thinner shots in her stomach every day,” he said.
Stephanie Guarino missed about four months of school, although she had some home tutoring.
She still struggles to walk and needs to have metal in her legs removed before she can continue her therapy.
Her doctor said her youth would help her recover, but Stephanie could be stricken with arthritis later in life, said her father.
Don Guarino said he hopes Dunbar, the bank robbery suspect, gets the maximum sentence possible in connection with the criminal charges.
“What can you say to him? I’m thankful to have my daughter here. It’s done. It’s over with. You can’t go back,” he said.
“I could say to him, ‘What if this was your child that someone did this to?’”
Dunbar is in jail, and the public defender who is representing him did not return phone messages for comment.
The crash came 11/2 years after Stephanie’s brother, Donny Guarino, 21, was struck by a motorist as he was crossing Route 123 in Abington and suffered multiple injuries.
That April 2006 collision sent him to Massachusetts General Hospital by MedFlight helicopter with injuries to his head, brain and legs.
He was in a coma for 10 days. Two years later, he is wearing a leg cast and still faces a number of surgeries.
The Guarino family survived first one medical crisis, then a second.
“We’ve been through hell. We’re just getting back on our feet now, with our strength and our health,” said Monica Guarino, their mother.