Imagine falling 65 feet off the side of a cliff and living to tell the tale.
In October 2010, John Edwards, freshman from Murray, lost his footing and fell 65 feet backward off of Pilot Rock outside of Hopkinsville.
He said he had gone climbing and rappelling with his sister, dad and some other friends as they usually did for fun. Edwards said he was preparing his gear to rappel when he stepped too far back and lost his balance.
“If (my dad) was not there I may not have made it,” he said.
After his sister witnessed his fall, he was rushed by ambulance to an open field and met by Life-Flight to air lift him to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, he said. Due to his severe internal injuries, the medical staff had to stabilize him before surgery.
“When I got that phone call, I thought I was going there to say goodbye to my son,” his mother said.
He said along with one collapsed lung and the other partially collapsed, he sustained a broken pelvis, eight broken ribs, a compound fracture in his left arm and a shattered wrist on the other, but miraculously no injuries to his back or neck.
“It is easier to count what I didn’t break,” he said.
He said he endured a total of 11 surgeries and countless screws and plates were implanted to piece his bones back together.
He needed 46 staples in his stomach and so many sutures he said he could not keep track.
He was in and out of consciousness for the first two weeks of his stay at Vanderbilt and does not recall the day of the accident, he said.
“When I realized what had happened I was scared, but I did not want to show it because I did not want to freak everyone else out,” he said.
He spent a total of 24 days at Vanderbilt before he moved home to receive home care for two months. He had a home nurse, physical therapist and an occupational therapist administer therapy and treatment, he said.
Because he was unable to sit for long periods due to his pelvic injury, he missed a good portion of his senior year, he said. This meant missing his last season of track he had been training for up until the accident.
During his recovery process, he continued his high school curriculum in order to technically graduate in December.
Edwards said he worked on his school work at home to make up for what he had missed and to finish out the rest of his high school credits.
He discontinued his physical and occupational therapy at home and started treatment at the Murray-Calloway County Hospital’s Center for Health and Wellness.
This was just maintenance work, such as lower body strength, conditioning and occupational therapy for upper body and finer movements to regain function after the nerve damage in his hands, he said.
Edwards was able to attend his prom at the end of his senior year with the rest of his class. He also walked at the May graduation ceremony where he received a standing ovation from the audience.
“I wish I wouldn’t have missed so much of my senior year, I just missed the people and the stuff that went along with finishing high school,” he said.
Edwards continued his physical and occupational therapy up until this August when he began classes at Murray State, he said.
With months of recovery behind him, Edwards has been able to start running and play ultimate Frisbee with friends, he said. He is looking forward to being able to regain enough strength to climb again.