A journey of hope

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 19, 2007

On the morning of Aug. 17,

the Etheridge family was faced with a crisis that would permanently change their life. Wayne Etheridge, 31, of Demopolis, was involved in a severe car accident near Chickasaw State Park on U.S. Highway 43.

Around 4:20 a.m. Wayne was on his way home from work at Burkes Mechanical when he suddenly lost control of the car. Even now, nearly six months since the accident, his wife Shannon says she does not know what happened, and perhaps never will.

Wayne was flown to University of Alabama at Birmingham hospital where it was discovered he sustained several broken rubs, punctured lung, fractured skull and worst of all traumatic brain injuries. Later, he was rushed to surgery to remove a blood clot from the right side of his brain.

According to Shannon, the initial CT results were very grim, showing bruising on various parts of his brain and to his brain stem.

Nearly six months later, however, Wayne is enrolled at Glen Haven, a rehabilitation facility in Northport. There he receives care from skilled nurses and does both physical and speech therapy. He has gotten to the point where he can walk some and most recently, he has developed some speech.

Although she and her family cannot understand everything he says, Shannon says this is a big improvement for him. She says often she can see the frustration in his face when he tries to get something across to his family members and they don&8217;t quite understand.

Shannon describes her husband as an athletic and active person, which has proven to be a part of his determination to get better.

Shannon and her family are no strangers to tragedy. Prior to the accident, Wayne, Shannon and their three children Hannah, Taylor and Parker, had only lived in their home for a short time. Their former home had fallen victim to a fire just one year before.

Also, two-year-old Parker suffers from Cornelia de Lange syndrome, a condition he had a birth, which causes him to have developmental delays in growth, speech and motor skills.

But Shannon remains optimistic. Recently, she was given news that Wayne may be able to make visits home. But this news, too, came with complications.

Their double-wide manufactured home is not wheel chair accessible, and only had a small, unattached stair case to enter the home. This is the point where Shannon was approached by members of the Demopolis Civitan Club about building a porch and ramp onto the home so that Wayne would be able to get in and out with ease.

The project came together last week with donations from local citizens and the generous offering of man hours by both volunteers from the Demopolis Civitans and the Perimeter Civitan Club from Birmingham. The Perimeter club&8217;s ongoing project is to construct wheelchair ramps for people who cannot otherwise afford to do so.

With the new ramp in place, Shannon is excited to be able to bring her husband home as early as Thursday.

When asked how she felt about the Civitan&8217;s project, she said she was very thankful.

Kelli Wright is the staff writer for The Demopolis Times. She can be reached @ kelli.wright@demopolistimes.com