Tell us your story.
September 16, 1969, I broke my neck playing High School
football in Spokane Washington. It was during scrimmage, I
was playing defensive cornerback and a friend of mine (Scott)
had broke through the defensive line and linebackers and it
was up to me whether he scored a touchdown or not. I had been
playing football on teams since I was eleven years old. So, I
thought I would really impress the coaches and stick it to
Scott and put my head down to spear him with my helmet. The
next thing I know I was lying on my back looking at the
clouds in the sky and experiencing pain in my neck. The
coaches rushed over and started asking me all kinds of
questions. They didn't move me and called for an ambulance. A
ride to the hospital that I will never forget.
I spent about a month or so (and one major surgery) in the
hospital in Spokane. Then I was flown to Sandpoint Naval base
and ambulanced to Children's for rehabilitation and
more surgeries. My aunt (Avonelle Johnson) was a long time
volunteer at Children's and would come by to see me
almost every day. I was in a circle bed with traction hanging
from head for the first couple of months to help me from
getting pressure soars and keep my neck bones from
collapsing. I was rotated from my stomach to my back about
every hour. I was either recuperating from surgeries or
involved in physical and occupational therapy. As a jock, I
thought two-a-day practices were hard until I had to fight to
gain some movement back of my arms and shoulders. I also
learned that I had to depend on my mind and not my physical
attributes if I was going to get somewhere in life. Not an
easy task for someone who depended on his physical attributes
his entire life. It helped having a girl their (Kitty) who
had the same injury as mine but who had been there several
months longer than me. My therapists would tell me that some
day I would be able to do the things that Kitty was doing.
There was no way a girl was going to be better than me.
What does Children's mean to you, your child and your family?
Children's is not a hospital; it truly is a "Miracle
House". It's not just the doctors, nurses, therapists and
staff but also the volunteers that make this the miracle
house. If it weren't for the entire team helping to build me
up both physically and mentally I wouldn't be here today.
They gave me hope, encouragement and the determination to
become a better person and want to make something of my life
by giving back to others. A volunteer/mentor of mine from
Children's is a big part of who I am today. His name is Phil
Smart. He would crawl under my circle bed on his back and
look me in the eyes and lift my spirits and give me hope and
encouragement. It was great talking to someone not related to
me or my case. I left Children's in July of 1970. The next
time I saw Phil was at Children's in 1989. I had been
volunteering at Children's for a few months and was late
signing in at the volunteer office. I noticed Phil's name on
the signup sheet and asked if that was Phil Smart senior.
They informed me it was and told me what floor he was on.
When I got to the floor, the door to the room he was in was
closed. So, I went up to it and knocked. When he opened the
door, I asked him if he knew who I was. He looked at me and
said "I know those eyes!" Ever since than, we have stayed in
close contact. I try to call him and/or Helen (Precious) at
least once a month and on holidays.