Ready to recover

Elgin man and his wife believe he will walk again

By Beverly E. Simmons
Staff writer

Joel Geddings longs for the day when he again can explore the land around his Elgin home with his wife and son; when he can get out of bed late at night and get his own glass of water; when he can drive himself to work.

For 28 years of his life, Geddings, a computer programmer, lived normally.

Three years ago, however, an automobile accident left him virtually a paraplegic. The injury has made him dependent on family and friends to carry out the routine tasks of living, such as gathering firewood for his hearth and caring for his yard.

It may be tomorrow. It may be in three years, or 10, but Geddings will walk again, he and his wife believe.

“It’s gonna happen because we believe it’s gonna happen,” Geddings said.

Earlier this year, Geddings underwent surgery in New York, and although it was expensive, the experimental techique could be the key to his full revocery.

The Women’s Missionary Union of Blaney Baptist Church in Elgin has planned an auction and flea market to help pay Gedding’s medical bills. The benefit will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 27 at a vacant lot at 2547 Decker Blvd. If it rains, it will be held Aug. 3.

A religious man, Geddings doesn’t believe God had a hand in his injury.

“I am a child of God,” he said. “I have a child, but would I go out and break my child’s leg to teach him a lesson? No, of course not.”

But Geddings said he believes, “God was merciful to give me the opportunity to pull through.”

When the accident occured, Geddings and his wife, Debra, were on their way to pick up their son, Daniel, who was staying with his grandmother while they attended a wedding. It was the first time Daniel had ever stayed with anyone else.

Gedding said his car was rear-ended by a 20-year-old male who was driving under the influence of alcohol. Traveling about 100 mph, the man was trying to out-run a highway patrolman when he slammed into the Geddings’ car, slinging each of them out the window.

The tragic accident happened well before the stiff DUI legislation was passed, so the young driver, who had no insurance, faced a $100 fine and spent one night in jail, Geddings said.

While some family members have bitter feelings toward the man, Gedding says, he does not. “He was the instrument of the tragedy, but the boy didn’t maliciously go out to hurt anyone,” he said. “I hold no grudges.”

Mrs. Geddings was hospitalized for 10 days with a concussion, some broken ribs and mulitple lacerations.

Her husband’s inuries were more extensive and kept him hospitalized for six months. The accident left him with a fractured cervical vertebrae, which caused the paralysis, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, a punctured lung and a fractured skull.

“They were telling me my husband would never do anything,” Mrs. Gedding said, remembering the days at the hospital.

Despite the grim outlook of doctors, Geddings has regained full use of his right arm and fingers and partial use of his left arm.

The accident has changed the way the entire family lives. Last October, Geddings went back to work, taking a job as a programmmer for Colonial Life Insurance Co.

Mrs. Geddings, who had taught math at Spring Valley High School before the accident, began driving him to and from work daily, putting 120 miles on the black can and herself each day.

She, too, misses the way they lived before the accident, and looks forward to his recovery.

It’s more than just the workload he carried that she misses. “I’ve felt lonely for the times we would walk outside together,” she said.

When her husband is well and she completes her master’s degeree, Mrs. Geddings hopes to return to teaching, perhaps at the college level.

Meanwhile, she will care for her husband and child, trying to live life as normally as she can.

The Geddings’ son, Daniel, who is 4, often tells his mother he’s sad daddy can’t walk. Although he can’t do the things most boys do with their fathers, Daniel and his dad share a great deal, she said.

Geddings had spinal cord stimulation surgery in May at St. Barnabas Hospital in Bronx, N. Y.

The procedure involves the implanting of two electrodes above the injury and two below it. The electrodes are connected to a computerized receiver implanted under the patient’s skin.

The system is programmed with an external computer transmitter, which the patient can wear around his waist.

Using controls on the transmitter, Geddings sends a certain number of pulses per second to the electrodes, which stimulate the nerves remaining the damaged spinal column.

His doctor says improvement should be noticeable within the first six months. While no dramatic improvement has occurred, Geddings says he has felt some subtle changes.

The technique hasn’t worked for everyone, but the Geddings aren’t letting that get in their way.

“We don’t accept this situation as our lot in life,” he said.

July 18, 1985  Columbia Record (published as THE COLUMBIA RECORD)  Columbia, South Carolina
Page 55
July 18, 1985  Columbia Record (published as THE COLUMBIA RECORD)  Columbia, South Carolina
Page 57

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