Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April 5: Marietta Times Article

Path of recuperation: Whipple man in good spirits after paralyzing accident

By Sam Shawver

A year ago Whipple resident Bill Beck would no doubt have been fishing or planning for a whitewater rafting trip in the mountains of West Virginia.

"I like to hunt, fish, boat, kayak - if I wasn't at work I was always doing something outdoors," Bill, 28, said, adding that he bagged three deer while bow hunting last year.

In addition to his outdoors activities, Bill worked for American Electric Power in Beverly and was commuting to Ohio University in Athens to work on a mechanical engineering degree.

But his life radically changed on Nov. 16, 2009.

Around noon that day Bill was cutting down a tree less than a mile from his home on the family farm near Whipple. A limb fell, striking Beck on the head, injuring the spine at the base of his neck.

"He missed being crushed by only a few inches," said Bill's sister, Sarah.

"Originally he was going to cut down the tree by himself, but a buddy, Chris Perot, happened to show up and asked to go with him," Sarah added. "There's no question in my mind that Bill would have died if Chris had not been there."

Bill agreed.

"I was kind of perturbed at first when he said he wanted to come along and watch, but I would have died if not for Chris," he said.

Bill was knocked unconscious by the blow. Perot first made sure his friend was still breathing, then ran to the nearby house of Bill's parents, Stephen and Nancy Beck.

Nancy called Stephen at work and he in turn called 911, then he rushed home.

At the scene, rescue workers determined that, considering his injuries, it would be too risky to transport Bill to an area hospital, so he was flown to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., which was the nearest head trauma facility.

Later he was moved to Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Ga., one of the nation's top facilities for treatment of patients with spinal cord injuries.

"He's now classified as a C-5 quadraplegic," Sarah said. "His spinal cord was crushed between vertebrae 5 and 6 at the base of his neck."

Bill, now back in Marietta continuing his recovery and rehabilitation at the Arbors nursing facility, said Sarah, who lives in New Mexico, had traveled to Morgantown and Atlanta, and remained by his side for most of the next four months until he recently returned to Washington County.

He said the last thing he remembered of the accident was the tree limb snapping. Bill recalled waking up in the hospital about two weeks later and lifting his right arm, but his hand just dangled from the wrist.

"I had to ask my Dad what happened to me," Bill said.

He later learned that the limb had pushed his head forward and pinched the spinal cord, leaving him with limited mobility from the neck down.

"But it's not over for him," Sarah said. "He's not taking this lying down."

In his room at the Arbors, Bill uses a computer that responds to his vocal commands to do everything from e-mailing and phoning friends and family to shopping for a van he'll need for transport when he returns home.

He's also discovered beadaptive.com, a Web site connecting him with others experiencing similar physical limitations who have formed a support network to help and encourage one another.

"They sponsor someone every year to go on a hunt, and I've submitted an application form to go," Bill said.

"The computer was a breakthrough, it's helped turn him around and motivates him," Stephen Beck said of his son.

He said Bill also plans to finish his schooling as soon as possible.

Stephen said a group of Bill's friends and other volunteers are also currently working to make Bill's house more accessible.

"He grew up in that house," Stephen said. "A group of volunteers and quite a few friends from his work are working on it.

"The exterior work is mostly done, and we're getting started on the interior now," he said.

The project will include remodeling of the bathroom and installation of new windows.

Meanwhile Bill continues to maintain a positive attitude about the whole situation.

Asked if he thinks about the accident much, he said "no."

"You really can't cry over spilt milk," Bill said. "If I worry or get upset, it will just take me down, and I want to carry on with my life. There are some things I can't do now, but I also have a whole new set of opportunities."



  1. This is such a great article! Talk to you soon, Bill!!

  2. This article really highlights your positive attitude and motivated spirit. I am so glad to hear that you plan to finish school. You have so many people cheering you on as you reach for your goals.