By SHAWN RYAN
---- — KEESEVILLE — Lives can change in the blink of an eye.
On Sept. 5, Mark Spooner fell from a loading dock while on the job as a truck driver for Denton Publications. He landed on his head, breaking several vertebrae and damaging his spinal cord.
After spending a month in the Intensive Care Unit at Fletcher Allen Health Care, he was sent to the Special Tree Neurocare Center near Ann Arbor, Mich. His wife, Jan, said they chose that particular facility for its reputation for care of severe spinal-cord injuries but also because their two daughters, Heather Pelkey and Sarah Spooner, and three grandchildren live in that state.
While it’s a comfort to Mark to be able to see his grandchildren regularly, it has created a special set of problems for Jan.
“It is difficult being separated and not knowing for yourself what is going on,” she said from the Keeseville home she now keeps up and running by herself.
Mark has been in Michigan since Oct. 4, and Jan has been able to see him only a few times. She tries to fly out every other weekend.
“The airlines don’t offer any kind of a discount for medical reasons,” she said.
TOO EARLY TO TELL
Mark will give his recovery everything he’s got, Jan said.
“He’s one of the most amazing men I’ve ever met. He is determined to beat this. He says, ‘It’s not going to get me down forever. I just have to work hard.’”
For Mark, the work ahead definitely will be hard. Doctors have implanted rods from the top of his shoulders to the middle of his back, Jan said. He has some movement in his arms and legs, which doctors and therapists say is a positive sign. It is too early to tell, however, how much use will return to the appendages.
Doctors expect Mark to be at Special Tree for at least another eight weeks, depending on his progress. Jan is in the process of getting their home ready with the structural modifications that may be required for when he returns home.
“It’s a catastrophic thing,” Jan said. “My daughters are doing a great job standing in for me while I do what I have to do here for him so he has a home to come home to.”
“They visit him every day,” her sister Debbie Blaise said. “It’s made a big difference.”
‘A LOVER OF LIFE’
While Jan realizes it’s too early to plan for their future, Mark is already hoping to go back to work if he can adequately recover.
His wife says he is not the kind of person who would let even a major accident keep him down. In fact, she says, he is normally the one who picks up her spirits when she is having a bad day. She calls him “a lover of life.”
For her part, Jan “is a strong person,” Blaise said. “She’s holding up very well.”
Blaise is organizing a benefit for the family to help defray travel costs and other expenses associated with a life-changing injury like Mark’s.
Set for Saturday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1505 in Keeseville, the event will feature a dart tournament, 50/50 raffle, an auction and raffles of numerous gift cards and other items, including a 32-inch flat-screen television. Food will be available, and a DJ will be on hand for entertainment.
Registration for the dart tournament starts at 1 p.m., with the benefit at 2 p.m.
Blaise is accepting donations of items for the raffle, as well as cash donations for Mark and Jan. She can be reached at 834-7643.