Spinal cord patient optimistic about future

Published: April 28, 2004
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POCATELLO – Neil Maberry, victim of a mountain biking accident, believes he is going to walk again.

“I have faith that within about three years of the time of my actual accident I will be able to meet a stranger, who will have no idea of my spinal cord injury,” said the radio station manager. He suffered the injury Aug. 6, 2003.

Maberry faces the future optimistically, drawing from a spiritual reawakening that happened shortly before his accident.

“I had a vague belief in God,” he said. “When your children are born, it wakes you up a little bit more.”

This faith has helped him through the last eight months of being determined to resume life as he once knew it.

“When I first fell, there I was with my face in the dirt,” Maberry recalls. “I tried a couple of times to pick myself up. Then I realized I had injured my spinal cord and was paralyzed from the neck down, I thanked God that I had my mental faculties and could still communicate. Even if paralyzed, I could have somewhat of a meaningful life. Then I asked God to remove my fears.”

Maberry was on the ground for three hours before his wife, Mary, finally found him. He remembers praying to God that, “He would take any resentment and anger over what had happened and that I wouldn’t spend the rest of my days saying life isn’t fair. That would have hampered my recovery.”

Mary says her husband has been making huge improvements since coming home from the hospital on Dec. 5. Mary said she and their two daughters thought they were ready for his return.

“You try to do the best planning you can,” she said, “but the equipment wasn’t quite right. He had three wheelchairs in three weeks.”

Just before he came home, he went in mid-November to Harbor View Hospital in Seattle. The travel was difficult, Neil didn’t respond well, and the experience didn’t prove very beneficial.

“I’m glad we went and did what we could but what Neil needed was time to heal,” Mary said. “He needs a year to regain ability to walk and two years to get back function of his arms and hands.”

Mary said he has surprised everybody with his determination to get better.

“He knows he needs time to heal.”

Having been paralyzed from the neck down in August, he now can feed himself and take care of some personal grooming.

Mary admits that all you can do is try to stay positive. Neil misses being busy and being among the business people with whom he was working. He’s not a TV guy so he reads and pursues his therapy. He also has quite a few visitors.

Talking to the upbeat Neil on the phone, the caller would never dream he has so many physical problems. He does therapy on Mondays and Wednesdays. He takes part in the C.W. HOG program at Reed Gym.

The regional transit bus takes him there to work out on the weight machine, and the bus staff even helps transfer him around. He also is hooked up with Occupational Therapy.

“Not only do I need to gain neurological control,” Neil said. “I lost 35 to 40 pounds when I was totally paralyzed. I was in real good shape when the accident happened.”

A Physical Therapist comes over three days a week and puts him through a two-hour workout.

“The therapist works the daylights out of me,” Neil says, “and that’s what I want. I play a mental game with him until he tells me to quit.”

The hardest part for Neil is seeing how difficult his physical condition has been for his wife.

“I’ve taken her life away,” he says. “She is sort of tethered to me and has to work to care for me. She is such a great mom to our kids. It is painful to see what she has to go through. Some days I can see her sadness and frustration.”

Neil and his family plan to make a brief appearance at the Rotary fund-raiser on Thursday.

Commenting on the community support, he said, “It has been amazing from the start. The whole community and Grace Lutheran School and Church have shown us so much love and helped us so much.”

One time seven different religious denominations offered prayers during their services.

I thought, ‘Wow! That’s the kind of community you want to live in.'”