Motorcycle accident reinforces Danville man's faith

September 24, 2004|HERB BROCK

Stories abound about how a catastrophic event will cause the victim to "get religion." Terry Harper went through such an event in August but he did not undergo a spiritual transformation.

Harper didn't need to get religion because he already had it. Or, as he puts it, "Christ already was in my heart." After all, the man does wear a "halo."

But the halo is not something angelic. It's therapeutic. And besides, Harper is humble in his faith. He doesn't wear it on his head or his sleeve. He wears it in his heart.

Nevertheless, the Danville man characterizes the traffic accident that broke and bruised his 34-year-old body as "life-changing."

He already was a devout Christian. Now he's a devout Christian on a mission - a mission to tell his story as a new way to share his love of Christ.


And it was a mission set in motion by things and people surrounding the accident. The prayers of an accident witness while cradling Harper's groggy, bleeding head. The outpouring of support from scores of leaders and regular members of his home church. The rock-solid backing of his and his wife Rhonda's families.

Car hits them head-on

The mishap that led to the mission occurred Aug. 7 when Harper and his wife were returning to Danville after spending some time at Cumberland Falls. With Harper serving as driver, the couple were motoring along on their Kawasaki motorcycle on Ky. 1275 near Monticello when, about 6:30 p.m., they spotted a car suddenly entering the highway from a sideway. The car was near the center line of the curvy road when it struck the Harper's' cycle head-on.

"We tried to avoid a collision," Rhonda Harper. "But we didn't have time to get out of the car's way. Terry slammed into the windshield. I tumbled over Terry and landed 52 feet away, in the middle of the highway."

While waiting nearly 25 minutes for emergency personnel to arrive at the scene, Rhonda Harper suffered pain from an injured wrist and badly bruised and scraped legs. But she was in much better shape than her husband.

"My neck and my right arm seemed to be broken. My leg was hanging on by a thread. I was bleeding badly," said Terry Harper. "I was thinking I could be at least partially paralyzed."

While he lay on the ground worried and waiting for professional help, a witness to the accident held Harper's head and comforted him.

"The man, a fellow from Wayne County, just kept holding my head and praying with me until help arrived," said Harper. "He and the Lord kept me going."

Rhonda Harper said it also helped that both she and her husband were wearing helmets and padded motorcycle riding gear.

"We always wear helmets but normally we just wear jeans when we ride," she said. "Wearing the special biker apparel helped keep our injuries, especially the scrapes, from being even worse."

Meanwhile, the driver and passengers in the car received minor injuries, the Harpers said.

The Harpers eventually were taken by separate medical helicopters to the University of Kentucky Hospital in Lexington. Rhonda Harper was treated for a broken wrist and bruises and released within 24 hours. Her husband had to undergo eight hours of surgery for a fractured cervical vertebra in his neck and a compound fracture to his right arm. He spent one and a half weeks at the UK hospital and another week in rehabilitation at Cardinal Hill Hospital in Lexington.

Harper, an employee at Toyota in Georgetown, now is at his Vail Drive home where he is waited on by his wife of 10 years, a self-described "stay-at-home mom" and Mary Kay salesperson, their 6-year-old daughter, Tiffany, and Rhonda Harper's mother, Charlene Antle.

"At first Tiffany was scared about what happened to me, but when I came home from the hospital and she saw I was OK, though a little scary looking, she was OK," Harper said.

"Tiffany has been a perfect little nursemaid," Rhonda Harper said.

His appearance is "scary"

Terry Harper's "scary" appearance comes from the fact that he wears an orthopedic contraption called a halo, which is a bracket that braces his head and shoulders to keep his neck from moving. He also wears a special boot on his lower right leg and foot. He walks with the aid of a walker, and he uses a wheelchair on rare trips from home, such as when he needs to go to the doctor .

At least three times a week, a physical therapist from Phoenix Physical Therapy of Danville drops by the Harper home to aid Harper in walking and to coach him in strength training.

While he is still unsteady in his walking and his neck and leg are not yet fully healed, Harper said his doctors have told him they expect him to be back on his feet and almost fully recovered in another month and a half.

But Harper has not waited to become physically healed to let a lot of people know that his spiritual being is well - and a lot better than it was before the accident.

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