Broken Limbs, Not Broken Dreams


Hours after the car crashed over the precipice, the doctors stare at him in disbelief, look at the x-rays and glance back at 23 year-old Keith Tucker who is unable to move anything but his eyes and mouth.
His neck is broken in three places. He should not live for more than another three hours. His friend, who was travelling with him, has his back broken and his neck slipped out of place as well. Today, ‘Miracle Man’ is a para-quad, having progressed medically from being a quad, who lost the ability to move his four limbs, to a para-quad, where he now has some movement in his limbs.
Keith reflects on that fateful day, July 26, 1996 when he careened off Glenmuir Road in May Pen over a precipice to avoid a head-on collision with a truck that was coming around a corner. He was trying to avoid loose gravel on his side of the road and the truck was not hugging the bend.
“I swung from the truck, back into the gravel and the car skid and took us over the precipice,” he recalls in an interview with JIS News.
“Actually as you see it in a movie, it rolled right over and then landed on the four wheels. All that time I was still conscious,” he explains. “I knew something was wrong but I just didn’t know what.”
Keith is featured in an infomercial produced for the ‘Drive for Life’ campaign as part of the Road Safety Unit’s public education programme on defensive driving. In 15 seconds, Keith appeals to motorists to take care on the roads because they may not be as fortunate as he is to be alive.
“God was gracious to me,” Keith, who is a Christian, says as people came to their rescue immediately. They put Keith and his friend David Clarke in a pick-up, so that they could lie flat all the way to the hospital to avoid further injury.
At the time, Keith was an employee of ScotiaBank, Riverton City Branch and was accepted by the College of Arts, Science and Technology (CAST), now University of Technology (UTech) to pursue his dream in another two months in Avionics and Instrumental Design. But the story of his life changed instantly.
His expected life span crept from three hours to three days and then to three weeks. “When three weeks passed they (medical staff) started to gather around my bed because they had not seen anything like this before,” Keith says.
“I lost feeling and movements from my neck down,” he notes, “but the church prayed. At the time I was a baby Christian.not having a deep relationship with God, but just knowing about Him, that’s a big difference.”
Keith underwent skull traction. “They bore my skull, put weights on it to set back the neck and I stayed in that position for about three months,” he says.
He remembers he had the support of his family and church as well as his co-workers who were there for him to help in the healing process. After some time, he noticed that electric shocks began going through his body, but he was reluctant to tell the doctors as he thought something was going wrong.
One day someone came to pray for him and they touched his stomach and he felt it. “I feel my belly, I feel my belly,” he gasped excitedly for the first time in months and after that he looked forward to regaining the basic sense of touch in other areas of his body.
The bank rallied around him and opened an account which played an integral role in covering his medical expenses and other bills for more than five years.
He received his medical treatment at the Kingston Public Hospital after which he was moved to the Mona Rehab Centre in Kingston where he spent more than a year in the first instance undergoing aggressive therapy. It would be sometime after that before he returned to Mona Rehab, having spent years in Nursing Homes and St. Monica’s Home for the Aged in St. Catherine.
“Can you imagine not seeing your hand for a long time and your hand is on your body?” Keith quizzes, trying to convey the seriousness of his medical condition. When he eventually moved one finger, Keith felt like he had been given the gift of walking. “Just to move one finger was like I could walk. Every morning it was a new miracle and the doctors would come in and ask ‘what’s new this morning Keith?'” That was when they started calling him Miracle Man.
Aggressive therapy and the support he had from friends, such as Elgin Holness whom Keith refers to as ‘Daddy Holness’, the manager for his branch, and George Kerr, who he calls his ‘best man’, helped him immensely. Keith cherishes the hope of being married one day and Mr. Kerr will be his best man, he tells JIS News.
“This just can’t be the final chapter of my life,” he said to himself one day. “This can’t be me just sitting. It can’t be that someone comes to look after me and puts me in front of a TV.” Back at Mona Rehab his mobility improved considerably. He was able to stand with assistance between parallel bars and soon he was able to use the computer.
He credits his physiotherapist Susan Harris and others for fighting with him and telling him all the time that he could do it.
While there were down times, Keith says, “all my attention was focused on how I could rise above this.”
He started working again at Scotiabank in 2003, a few months before the funds in the charity account dried up. He is a Customer Service Representative at the Call Centre.
Keith does not dwell on the crash. “Maybe one and two times, but I look ahead where I know that there is hope for tomorrow,” he says. These days he skillfully manoeuvres a motorized wheelchair around the office and home.
“It’s one hand actually that I use, to deal with the computer, calculator and the phone within two minutes,” Keith says of his job.
Eager to give credit to all who have helped him over the years, Keith speaks about the support he receives from his mother, siblings, step-father, church family and friends. “There are so many things to tell,” he says.
Appealing to motorists, especially at Christmas time, Keith asks everyone to pay attention to the ‘Drive for Life’ campaign, the principles of which are to be courteous, cautious, proactive, perceptive and responsive.
“Defensive driving aims to reduce the risks associated with driving,” Director of the Road Safety Unit, Paul Clemetson tells JIS News. “This improves the driver’s ability to anticipate dangerous situations, despite adverse conditions, or the mistakes of others,” he says.
Mr. Clemetson maintains that 80 per cent of crashes results from human errors and as such are avoidable. “Since the power to avoid road crashes rests within our hands, then we have to do our utmost to avoid it. The reasons for a crash are of human origin and therefore we have the power to make the difference,” he notes.
Some 313 persons have lost their lives as a result of road crashes so far this year. Others have managed to escape with their lives but not without injuries and like Keith, they will never be the same again.

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