PHOTO ABOVE: “To be able to do the small things…that’s God’s Grace,” said wheelchair bound Cliffton Wallace at Life Care Center of Fort Wayne nursing home.
On the Road to Recovery After a Paralyzing Car Accident
On the morning of October 3, 2016, Cliffton Adrian Wallace was turning northbound onto Adams Center Road, at the Paulding Road intersection, the heavy fog obscured the oncoming truck. “I saw the truck hit my shoulder and heard a bone break. I thought it was my shoulder bone,” Wallace said. “I didn’t know it was my neck.”
The accident bruised his spinal cord--an incomplete spinal cord injury that comes with the ability to heal, to varying degrees. Wallace, paralyzed from the chest down, prayed to God to keep him breathing until the ambulance came to rescue.
He had started a spiritual journey the year before, having approached New Covenant’s Pastor Luther Whitfield for direction. “Where do I sign up for how to be a Christian classes?” he asked. Whitfield told Wallace to somehow find a way to be in the church. He got serious, learned about God and how faith impacts doing.
Right after the accident, unable to feel sensation beneath his chest, the found and centered man prayed on his back: “God, if this is what you meant by training me up to do your work, then this is what I got to go through. Words out my mouth…let’s do it.”
After two years, He can move his toes while describing moving his toes. He can wash his face, brush his teeth, and sit on the edge of his bed for 15 minutes. “That’s encouraging,” he said.
Physical therapy at Turnstone is going good. By the time some of you read this, Wallace may be living back at home, with help from Aging & In-Home Services of Northeast Indiana.
Wallace can now feed myself but, on his interview day, his ex-wife Janet Wallace served him his chicken, greens, and corn. Since she was there, she could do it, he said.
“Can I have some of that corn?” he asked Janet.
“Everybody knows him,” Janet started, on the days after the accident, when she was one of the folks to report the news to family and friends. “Everybody said, ‘I just saw him or I just talked to him.’ They couldn’t believe it. They were more concerned about his mental status.”
Cliff was always on the go. “Doing something for somebody,” she continued, “cutting tree down…”
“Who’s giving this interview?” Wallace interjected. “Give me some more corn.” We laughed.
Two years ago, Wallace could only move his eyes. Couldn’t even talk; the only noise he could make -- to ask, to attract, to bug -- was a clicking sound. “By the grace of God, I have made significant improvements.”
The emergency room doctor told him he would be paralyzed the rest of his life. He couldn’t sit up on the bed’s edge for six to eight months. He was in intensive care for 30 days and developed a bed sore so big on his behind it kept him in the hospital for a year replete with seven surgeries to correct. And while he was in the ICU, his heart stopped beating three times.
His nursing home stays were what caused the mental breaks. “The nursing home is the last place you want somebody you love to be,” he said. He talked about the understaffing.
With every setback, Wallace said, it was as if God was telling him he needed more time in spiritual boot camp. The demotions were sign posts.
Before the accident, Wallace said he took so much for granted, like not being able to shoo away lint from his nose, when paralyzed. “It takes a lot of disciple to turn that itch off. I couldn’t tell anybody to come and get it. All I could do was blow.”
He tells the story while pantomiming wiping lint from his nose. He held my hand to shake it when I arrived and left. He can stand up in a standing frame.
Wallace still attends New Covenant Worship Center. His first day back was documented with a Facebook video post that racked up about 1,000 views.
“It was a beautiful day at church,” Wallace said. Church was stopped twice so everybody could come over to hug him and be hugged by him.