A shot put hit me in the head this time last year

Published 10:11 pm Tuesday, March 18, 2014

On Saturday, March 8, I celebrated the one-year anniversary of a very special moment in my life.
It could have changed my life in a negative way, but thanks to a lot of good, caring friends and neighbors it instead changed my life in a very positive way.
The life changing moment I am talking about occurred while I was covering and taking pictures of the shot put event at the fourth annual Doctor Larry Clark Invitational Track Meet.
It happened so quickly. I was hit in the head by a shot put throw and it knocked me out cold. Coach Tom Wheeler, football and golf coach for the Bearcats was coordinating the shot put event that day and it was his quick action that kept it from a worse situation.
I guess it proved I have a hard head.
Wheeler recently recalled what took place that memorable day.
“The boy’s shot put competition, which Joe was taking pictures of, had just ended and the girl shot putters were warming up,” he said. “One of the girls warming up was left handed. Joe turned his head to look over at the long jump competition just as she released a throw. It struck him and knocked him down. The young lady who threw it was so upset that she could not continue in the competition.”
I wish I could have had the opportunity to meet her later and assure her that it was not her fault.
Coach Wheeler said the coach from Marianna, Fla., was the first to get to me as I struggled to get up as I came to.
“I was on the phone to the ambulance when I saw the shot coming toward Joe,” Wheeler said. “Joe was kind of giving the Marianna coach and the others who rushed to help a hard time. He kept saying things like, ‘Let me up!’ and, ‘You are smothering me!’” Bainbridge High School athletic director Stan Killough, who also rushed to my side, later told me that I gave him and a lot of other people a hard time that day. Patience is a virtue but it is one I just didn’t have back then.
I actually don’t remember getting hit. I remember taking pictures of shot put participants throwing. Then, the next thing I remember was lying on the ground with an ice pack on my head with a bunch of concerned people around me. Post-Searchlight general manager Mark Pope was also at my side.
Wheeler said it was rather ironic that just a week earlier he was at the Bainbridge State College Charles H. Kirbo Regional Center to see me inducted into the Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame.
He also told me that on the day of the accident, he saw the shot coming toward me and was on the phone to the ambulance before it hit me. I guess I need to become a better ducker.
When I reached the Memorial Hospital emergency room, Dr. Sydney Cochran was there to take over. He supervised the stitching of my head.
Larry Clark, my dear friend for whom the meet is named, was one of the first people to visit me at the hospital. He is one of the greatest role models for young people that we have in Decatur County.
My family and my Post-Searchlight colleagues have been there to support me throughout my ordeal. Publisher Jeff Findley and all the fine people at Boone Newspapers arranged for me to receive workman’s compensation pay during the time that I was unable to work.
Former Post-Searchlight owner and publisher Sam Griffin was always there for me as well. Their dear son Sammy brought me breakfast one morning when I was in the hospital. I want to thank the wonderful people at Boone Newspapers and the wonderful Griffin Family for allowing me to have a job I love for more than 43 years.
The morning after the accident Bainbridge High School principal and my dear friend Tommie Howell drove to Sam and Mary Ann’s home to inquire about what happened and how I was doing.
Sam called my dear brother Tom and sister-in-law Cheryl in Sharpsburg to inform them about my accident. They came right down to be with me. They were there when Dr. Aric Aldridge performed cataract surgery on my eyes.
When I came home from the hospital, Dr. Philip Todaro and the nurses and physical therapists from Nightingale Services took over my care and I continued to improve. I still do exercises that the physical therapist gave me along with a lot of walking, which I do daily.
I also want to thank the many friends and colleagues who took me to doctor’s appointments, shopping and other places I needed to go when I was unable to drive. They included former Post-Searchlight managing editor Justin Schuver, Bainbridge High School Lady Cats soccer coach Chip Ariail, Jarratt Nix and Betty Weston.
I want to especially thank Post-Searchlight managing editor Ashley Johnson and news writers Powell Cobb and Carolyn Iamon for the great work they do. They are all outstanding journalists.
I also want to thank Deanna Ellis, who was there for me when I returned home. She diligently came to my apartment three times a day to put drops in my eyes.
In conclusion, I just want to thank the wonderful people at Deanna’s Southwest Baptist Church, my Saint Joseph Catholic Church and all the other Bainbridge and Decatur County churches who prayed for me during my ordeal. Pastors and parishioners of many churches told me that they were praying for me. I love them all.

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