Thanksgiving became an even more important day of thanks and hope for my wife Amy and I in 2012 because it was on that day of gratitude that I awoke, briefly, from a coma and recognized her before lapsing back into unconsciousness in the trauma unit of Roanoke Memorial Carilion Hospital.
Thanksgiving in 2012 came on Nov. 22, one day shy of two weeks after the Friday night when I laid my Harley-Davidson down on U.S. 221 at Poague Valley Road to try to avoid hitting a black steer shortly before 11 p.m. while on my home from photographing a football playoff game at Riverheads High School outside Staunton.
The crash left me with massive brain trauma, a badly broken right leg, a smashed up face and a dislocated right eye among other injuries and little chance to live.
Amy had remained at my side and, with the help of friends and others she had not me before, watched and prayed for 13 days and nights. On Thanksgiving afternoon, I opened my eyes, said hello and added that I loved her in that brief period of consciousness.
Up until that point, she later told me, doctors had warned her that if I lived — still an uncertainty, I might have the mind of a two-year old and would not recognize her or know her name. She had ordered one doctor to never return to my room after he told interns, while on rounds, that I — at best — would be little more than a vegetable if I ever work up.
I gained consciousness more and more often. Sometimes, she and others wondered what decade of my life I might be in as my bruised and battered brain struggled to regain memory.
Those who came to visit, and helped her, brought relief and hope. Many visits I cannot remember because of my injuries. I was not awake when musicians Bernie Coveney and Michael Kovic played in my room in intensive care in November but i was conscious when Coveney returned with Andrea Marshall in December for more music.
Such visits meant so much. Floyd County is a place where people care and we saw so much of that in November and December of 2012 and the months of recovery and rehabilitation that followed.
On Dec. 5th, 2012, I woke up and asked “what happened?” During that day, every doctor and nurse who visited the room asked me my name, my age, the year and date i was born, Amy’s name and other questions. On that day, I began therapy to regain my strength, grasped — for the first time — what had happened. On the 19th day after waking up, I told the doctors and nurses “thank you” as they wheeled me out of the rehabilitation unit of Carilion Community Hospital to our car, on Christmas Eve, to go home.
We remain thankful to those who visited, who sent cards and condolences via cards, emails, voicemails and on social media during November and December of that year and the days, weeks and month that followed. We owe so many so much.
In so many ways, my life began again on that Thanksgiving afternoon, Nov. 22, 2012.
Our thanks, and eternal gratitude, to all of you on this Thanksgiving, Nov. 22, 2018.