AFTER BEING SEVERELY INJURED IN AN AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENT AT THE AGE OF 16, MANFORD FERRELL VALUES THE LIFE HE HAS BEEN GIVEN
by JENNIFER JORDAN
Roy Manford Ferrell, Jr. calls himself “47 years young.” Manford, as he is known by family and friends, maintains a hearty sense of humor. Like anyone, he knows that he has experienced life’s up and downs. However, unlike most people, Manford can say that he has risen up from the lowest of lows: his deathbed at the age of 16.
The story that changed Manford’s life began on the evening of December 5, 1987, in his hometown of McCrory, Arkansas. He was preparing for a party with his cousins and best friends, Rodney and Barry Ferrell. “After all, what are three cousins to do when parents are out of town for the weekend? And if you knew Rodney and me, we were always together, and needless to say, we were in trouble often,” Manford explains. Although he has very little memory of the night, he has been told that the party grew very large —“a house full of intoxicated high school and college kids. We partied all night long.”
Sometime after 1 a.m. on December 6, Rodney and Manford decided to take Rodney’s pickup for a drive to get some nachos. At the gas station less than a mile from the house, the cashier realized that Rodney was intoxicated after he made a purchase. The cashier came outside and tried to take the keys out of the ignition. Manford recalls from anecdotes that “we left from the gas station at a high rate of speed. The roadways were wet with rain, causing us to spin out of control. We crashed into a ditch in front of S&H Pharmacy. Sliding sideways, the passenger side of the truck struck the concrete culvert driveway wall. I was ejected through the side glass window on impact. The truck flipped, rolling over on top of my body. Thankfully, I was the only one seriously injured.”
After they rolled the truck off of him, the paramedics found Manford unresponsive. Manford was transported to the local county hospital with severe head trauma. His parents, who were notified of the accident and arrived after 2 a.m., were told that the prognosis did not look too good. An ambulance transferred Manford immediately to Baptist Memorial Hospital in Little Rock.
At Baptist Memorial, Manford lost and regained consciousness several times and was quite combative, according to his doctor’s notes. “I was strapped to the bed using VELCRO® straps on my arms and legs. At one point, I broke the VELCRO® straps from my arms, again ripping out everything I could get my hands on. So they then secured me to the bed with leather belt-like straps.” Manford’s brain continued to swell due to internal bleeding, and family was told to come to say their goodbyes. Dr. Reading did not think that he would last the night. On the second day, Manford was in a coma, with continued brain swelling. “I then started having seizures as well,” he remarks. “With the severe head trauma, no one expected me to make it.”
Yet, as Manford avers, “The doctors did not know about all the people praying for me! It was in God’s hands!” Over the next 16 days, Manford remained in a coma in the intensive care unit. “The hospital went through great lengths to try to make it easy for my family. I had a huge amount of family, friends and loved ones come to visit me daily. On the 14th day, a nurse asked my parents if she could bring a radio to play music at my bedside. On the second day of playing music, my dad noticed that it looked like I was chewing on my tongue, or that I was trying to make some kind of movement with my mouth. The nurse told my parents that this was a good sign and not to give their hopes up.”
All of the prayers worked; Manford was removed from a ventilator and began to make steady improvements. He moved to a regular hospital room. “The only problem was that I didn’t know who anyone was; heck, I didn’t even know my own name. I was more like a toddler, just starting with a few motor skills,” Manford states. “I would also soon learn that I didn’t have any movement of my right side. My doctor told me that I wouldn’t be able to walk again. The physical therapist would start showing me how to operate a wheelchair. I fought, cursed, and argued with the doctor that I would be able to walk. He told me that with that attitude, I could sure try.”
Manford did try. “I had to learn how to move things with my hands, then I learned how to put the right shape into the correct hole on the kids’ toy block set. Kids do not get enough credit when learning new things. It was like I had to rewire my entire brain. Good grief, the frustration,” he recalls. “Each day was a new thing. How to hold a pencil, how to try to write, that took several days.” Talking proved difficult; Manford started speech therapy.
During this time, the family celebrated Christmas in the hospital. “It was magical,” Manford remembers. “When asked what I wanted for Christmas, I said that I’ve seen a commercial on T.V. showing these beautiful python snake boots. My dad finally found a pair of these boots on Christmas Eve. These snakeskin boots would prove to be something very important later.”
After a few more days, Manford was released from the hospital, on the condition that he would continue physical therapy, take seizure medications, and see the doctor every two weeks. Manford would also have to use a wheelchair at home and at doctor’s appointments. He told Dr. Reading, “‘I am going to prove you wrong, and I am going to walk back in here one day wearing these snakeskin boots.’ He laughed at me and said that he sure hoped I can do that one of these days.”
Going home was overwhelming for Manford, but he worked with determination in his physical therapy appointments every other day and at home. At his next appointment with Dr. Reading, Manford’s parents wheeled him into the office. He stood up from his wheelchair, with his parents on either side of him. “As I walked into his office wearing those snakeskin boots. Dr. Reading fell out of his chair and sat in his floor, completely shocked.”
Manford’s perseverance helped him achieve his goal to walk again. “It took a little while longer for me to actually be able to walk by myself. But I did do it. After a little time and a lot of hard work, prayers were answered. I continued to go to therapy for a few more months. From physical therapy, to speech therapy and even a little anger management therapy, I had to relearn it all,” Manford states. “One thing I learned for sure, is to NEVER drink and drive or to never get into a vehicle with someone that has had anything to drink. I continued the rest of my life normal, without any side effects from the accident, until I was injured and left disabled in a work accident in 2004. I thank God every day that I am alive.”
Manford enjoys an active life with his family in Genoa—his high school sweetheart and wife of 25 years, Elizabeth Ann, and his children, Trey, age 27, Victoria, age 25, Danielle, age 23, and Madison, age 19. He adores his 2-year-old grandson, Elijah. Manford fishes and loves to watch all hockey games, especially the Dallas Stars, but his favorite activity is to spend time with his family. “I thank God every day that I am alive.” True to his jovial nature, Manford recounts, “I always joke with my mother- in-law, Phyllis Smith, to watch what you pray for. She put a prayer group together to pray for me each day I was in the hospital. I tell her that if she would have only known I would be her son- in-law one day, she wouldn’t have prayed so hard for me.”