Doctors believe Wooley passed out from dehydration and suffered a central spinal cord injury when he fell, causing him to be paralyzed from the chest down. He thought he might not move his legs again.
Thanks to the strength of his wife Lauren, the knowledge of the dozens of medical professionals who worked on and with him, and the community that supported them, Wooley was able to recover and just weeks before Christmas, he returned home him with his wife and their two boys.
But none of it has been easy and Wooly said he’s just grateful for the time he’s already been given.
“I kept thinking, God gave me 48 years to be able to do anything and everything, and I feel like I didn’t really waste a lot of time,” Wooley said. “I was always busy. I have always been active. I feel pretty lucky to have turned 48, because some people don’t get many.
Immediately after his fall, Wooley was taken to an area hospital where doctors explained everything that had happened along the way, which helped comfort him, he said.
Wooley ultimately underwent difficult surgery with UC Health, one that had a chance of leaving him paralyzed for good, but also carried the possibility of a full recovery, he said.
“I’m very lucky because, within two days, I had very good sensations and I could move although obviously this type of operation was very painful and the discomfort was quite high, but again the people of the care intensives at UC West Chester have been phenomenal,” Wooley said.
After spending two weeks in intensive care, Wooley was transferred to inpatient rehab at Kettering Health Hamilton where he spent another three weeks recovering.
“The care I received there picked up where I was with UC,” Wooley said. “They were phenomenal, so encouraging, just attentive to my needs, attentive to helping me get better every day.”
Wooley went from not being able to get out of bed to being able to walk around the hospital, having full range of motion in his arms, and being able to care for himself and get out of bed. ‘hospital.
His church and youth soccer community supported him and his family, helping to keep Bill and Lauren’s boys, Beckett and Lincoln, occupied while Wooley recovered.
“My boys weren’t afraid… they kept them so busy and active that I don’t even think they had time to really absorb what was going on,” Wooley said.
“Because of his injury, he had very limited use of his hands, and most people don’t realize how much that affects your daily activities.” said Erin Mueller, an occupational therapist at Kettering Health. Dressing, eating, and brushing his teeth were difficult for him due to the limited use of his hands.
The biggest challenge Wooley had to overcome was pain.
“It’s a very painful injury,” said Mueller, who was part of Wooley’s treatment team.
Much of the occupational therapy included the team helping Wooley find ways to adapt to his condition. They found ways for Wooley to position himself so he would suffer less. To regain his balance and practice walking, medical staff had him use a LiteGait, a harness system that can be used with a treadmill or just on the ground, Mueller said.
Wooley’s mindset and focus also contributed to his recovery, Mueller said.
“From the beginning, he had very clear goals,” she said. “I think his kids motivate him a lot, and we can all say that was a big motivator for him. There were days where you could see he was suffering, but he definitely overcame a lot to return to his family.
After these three weeks, he was able to leave the facility without an assistive device. His pain was controlled and he could perform all daily tasks independently.
“I’m at the point now where, if you didn’t know I had an accident, you wouldn’t know,” Wooley said.
Wooley is doing well, he said, and continues his outpatient rehabilitation. When he first came home, he was able to surprise their two children by telling them he was home for good.
“It was definitely a little surreal to sit and watch them have fun, tease each other and do family stuff that you don’t realize how much you miss until they’re not there, so very lucky to be able to come back and be a part of it,” Wooley said.
There were times when he was nervous that he wouldn’t make a full recovery.
“I was just really nervous and obviously thinking about the impact of what this was going to be like for my kids and if I can’t get back to 100 percent, how can I remain a good father?” he said. “I know a lot of people overcome these things, so I was just trying to understand and think about it.”
Although every Christmas he gets to spend with family is special, recovering from this injury makes this season even better, he said.
“I really feel like you can slow down time in your mind a little bit and just look and be grateful,” Wooley said.
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