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Helping hands lead the way to recovery
Helping hands needed on road to recovery after major medical trauma

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ILLUSTRATION BY ANDI RUSSELL/THE FREE LANCE-STAR/iSTOCKPHOTO
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Date published: 9/19/2010

THE DAY I wrecked my motorcycle and landed in a steep ravine with a spinal cord injury, countless people stopped to help.

I was with a group that included my friends Molly Williams and Steve and Elaine Robinson. Of course, they stopped. But so did some people I'd never met.

And that's how it's been in the months since my accident--friends and strangers alike offering support to help in my recovery.

I've realized how the first people who take care of you after an accident can make the difference between being paralyzed and being able to walk. And I've realized the people who care for you later--who bake casseroles and build ramps and send encouraging e-mails--make the difference between feeling alone and feeling supported during the tough journey of recovery.

STOPPING TO HELP

First over the guardrail after I wrecked was Ken Luehrs of Spotsylvania County. He'd been behind us, but not with my group.

"One minute you were there, and the next you weren't," he told me. "The bike was tumbling down the road and you weren't on it."

He jumped into the steep ravine and began looking for me in the trees, where he was quickly joined by Steve Robinson, who found me twisted on the ground at the base of a tree.

Ken's wife, Anne, was also behind us and stopped. She stayed up on the road with my other friends, trying to help them stay calm.

A nurse and a sheriff's deputy also stopped, but I haven't been able to find out who they are.

Luehrs said he braced himself against a tree and let the nurse use his feet as steps down the slope of 50 to 60 feet. She took my pulse and removed my boots. Luehrs massaged my toes. Robinson knew not to let anyone remove my helmet.

My friend Isaiah Schaffer, a three-time Iraq war Marine veteran, also came upon the scene with his service dog, Meghan. He has severe PTSD and a traumatic brain injury. Despite a bad knee and combat flashbacks, he made his way down. He didn't know I was the one who was injured.

Schaffer knelt in the dirt and grabbed my hand.


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SUPPORTIVE FRIENDS, CAREGIVERS AID HEALING PROCESS