‘I never gave up’: partial quadriplegic builds herself the house of her dreams
Bobby DeCair shouldn’t be walking. But he is, thanks to Mary Free Bed Hospital and her determination to do so, which allowed her to build a house.
WHITEHALL, Michigan – Rehabilitation, whatever it is, is never easy. It takes a lot of work, and not knowing if all the work will pay off can be very stressful and frustrating.
A West Michigan man who became partial quadriplegic after a serious car accident defied his doctor’s expectations during his rehabilitation, motivated daily by the love of his life and his love for an unfinished house project he he was determined to get through – even if he had to crawl to do it.
Bobby DeCair and his wife Wendy decided they wanted to build their dream home. They wanted to build it near Whitehall, Michigan, where they both spent more than half of their lives.
“We bought the Pinewood Motel,” said Bobby, 61. “I had lots of ideas on what to do with it and couldn’t wait to start renovating.
The Pinewood Motel has been a staple along Whitehall Rd. In northern Muskegon County since its construction in 1947.
Bobby and Wendy took possession of it in May 2015, and Bobby began the renovations a month later.
“We named it the Posh Motel; no vacancy ever, ”Bobby said. “One day Wendy and I were sitting in the back and we saw a hole in one of the old screen doors. I threw a can of beer through the hole and she looked at me and said, ‘Well that was fancy.’ ‘
“I’m the third owner and the last,” Bobby said emphatically. “If my wife survives me, everything goes to Mary Free Bed Hospital [in Grand Rapids, Mich.]; If she dies before I do, I’m going to level this place and plant some wildflowers because she loves flowers. “
When asked why he wanted to donate his entire estate to Mary Free Bed, Bobby replied, “For what they did for me; I walk because of them.”
In January 2016, Bobby was driving his white pickup truck east on I-96 from Muskegon to Grand Rapids. He remembers it was snowing quite hard and there were slippery spots on the highway.
As he approached the Walker exit, he felt the back of his truck start to sway to the side.
“I remember every moment,” Bobby said. “I remember breaking my neck.”
Bobby had struck a patch of black ice. His truck tipped over four times before finally coming to a stop.
“I hit so hard, the tire tore off and it was never found,” Bobby added. “Fortunately, the third car behind me was a nurse.”
Bobby was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Grand Rapids where his condition worsened.
“When I lay down I couldn’t move,” he said. “I was panicking.”
Bobby had surgery to get his neck back together.
“When they say, ‘Is your head screwed up,’ mine really is,” Bobby said. “I have 8 screws and several plates on the front and back of my neck.”
Shortly after the operation, Bobby said he couldn’t move anything in his chest. His surgical team did not tell him that he would walk again, but they suggested that he start rehabilitation and therapy as soon as possible.
Bobby was admitted to the Mary Free Bed Rehab Hospital, where his long road home began.
“I had to start all over again,” he said. “Not just relearning to walk, but all the little things, like holding a toothbrush.”
Through pain and uncertainty, Bobby persevered, with the constant thought of being able to be released from the hospital on his own the day he returned home.
“I used to sit in my wheelchair in the lobby and watch people come out and I thought, ‘This is gonna be me,’” Bobby said.
Bobby would go above and beyond his daily rehabilitation needs. Each day, at the end of therapy, he would go back to his wheelchair and keep trying to push with the non-working leg.
“One day a finger started to move,” Bobby said. “It was a good feeling.”
Soon after, a nurse touched his foot and he moved his toes.
“I never gave up,” he said. “I told them all I was getting out of here, and I did.”
Eight weeks after arriving at Mary Free Bed, Bobby, using a walker, left the hospital of his own free will. When he got back to his Posh Motel all he could think of was finishing building his dream house, despite being paralyzed.
“I just got through the pain,” Bobby said, referring to the start of the daily work on the house. “At first I was only able to work for an hour, then I finished for two days.”
But he kept going, knowing that the project was now a marathon, not a sprint.
“Most days my body collapses,” Bobby said. “My legs stop working so I’m just dragging myself [to get the work done]. “
2021 marks five years after the accident. Bobby says he’s finally about to finish the house. This summer, he wants to add a large waterfall to his front yard, along with several other creative landscaping ideas.
“It was really important for me to say that I did it all myself,” said Bobby. “A lot of people have said to me, ‘Bob, we’re going to help,’ and I said, ‘No, no, I don’t want help.’
Bobby DeCair is the perfect example of when accidents happen, don’t despair; dig deep inside and find what you do best and build on it.
In Bobby’s case, it’s for building.
“I’m not going, I should, I would like a guy,” he said. “I’m going to say, ‘I did it,’ type.”
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