Today — 12/12/12 — is regarded by many as a date that’s truly mystical. Couples all over the world will line up to get married, and others with that birthday will celebrate in over-the-top ways.
However, for the family of 86-year-old Francis Shannon, today is a blessing they thought they would never have.
That’s because exactly one year ago today, the Mogadore man was involved in a horrific one-car accident that no one — neither the onlookers nor the first responders nor the hospital staff, to say nothing of his family — thought he would survive.
Hard to believe, the accident witnesses relayed, that he even survived the transport to Akron City Hospital.
Yet he did. For that Shannon and his three children and seven grandchildren have much to be thankful for.
“He was on a ventilator, a trach and a feeding tube,” his daughter Sharon Brustoski of Fairlawn recounted. He managed to bounce back from that too.
He lost his right arm in the process. But the formerly right-handed retired engineering draftsman manages to be forward-thinking, not focusing on loss but his future, exercising twice a week at Akron General Medical Center’s Sports Fitness facility in Mogadore.
Equally remarkable is that Shannon — who used to be in five bowling leagues at Bill White’s Akron Lanes, where he practically lived — is now back bowling, using his left hand and having a ball.
He’s making adjustments there, like he has had to do in all areas of his new life.
Balance, when you’ve lost your arm, becomes a major issue. To compensate, Shannon has dropped down from using a 14-pound ball to a “Blue Hammer” 10-pound ball. “The first time he was lucky to bowl a 26!” his daughter said of her very patient father.
“They are using the gutter guards,” she continued. “But he has been bowling in the 80s and 90s.”
Shannon — a man of few words — politely corrected her, saying his last game was 106. So his game is moving in the right direction, he wanted me to know.
Shannon took early retirement to take care of his ailing wife, Josephine, several years before her death. He has always had an optimistic nature, which has served him well during his own medical crisis.
He is an avid and unwavering fan of the Cleveland Browns and Indians and Ohio State University sports. Prior to the accident, he also played a lot of tennis.
Brustoski said she was home the day of the accident, waiting for her father to arrive so the two could travel together to Columbus to visit his critically ill sister before she was taken off life support.
“I was wondering why he was so late,” she recalled.
Then she got a call from someone from Akron City Hospital, alerting her that her father was involved in a car accident on Gilchrist Road, not far from his home. “Of course, they were playing his injuries down,” she continued.
She would learn that not only was he unconscious, but also he had a fractured right leg and a severed right arm.
She found out from a woman who witnessed the accident — which involved his car hitting an embankment, flipping over sideways, skidding several feet and landing upside down — that a stranger, who appeared to have come out of nowhere, intervened on scene and put an old-fashioned tourniquet on his right shoulder, possibly saving his life. That was several minutes before the EMS arrived.
“I don’t know if I should call that person a hero or an angel,” said Brustoski, who is convinced that without that person, her father would have died at the scene.
Wearing his seat belt might have helped too.
Brustoski said she learned that the stranger, before leaving, secured blankets from the witness, placing one under her father’s head, using another to wrap his arm and another just to keep him warm. “Two of them were handmade blankets — one with the Mogadore Wildcat emblem, and a Christmas one,” Brustoski said.
Shannon spent a month in the hospital, including 18 days in critical care; another month in rehab and three months in a nursing home. He suffers from some dementia, perhaps due to the small strokes he suffered in the hospital.
Brustoski — who will always believe the 70-plus people praying for her father were key to the outcome — kept a daily journal of the touch-and-go journey:
Dec. 29, 2011: My father was moved tonight to the Select Specialty Hospital in Akron … He should get more aggressive physical and occupational therapy and more aggressive treatment in weaning him off the trach … One area of concern. He got rid of one kind of pneumonia and picked up another type. They have changed his antibiotics …
1/1/2012: Some good news today. Dad sat in the chair for two hours, and on his breathing trial he went for six hours! Praise God … I continued to be amazed at the stories I am hearing about his accident, and the utter Grace of God … Also, my brother spoke with a member of his church, who happened to be the nurse in the emergency room when he was brought in. She said, his condition was so bad when he came in that none of the doctors or nurses believed that he was going to live. It is truly a miracle that he survived!
1/28/2012: Dad was transferred to the new Summa Rehab Center on Friday … Another unbelievable story! A respiratory therapist came to check on him. She was about to leave, when she saw him raise the stub of his right arm. She had a look on her face as if she had seen a ghost. Tears started streaming down her eyes. She said, “I know you, and you don’t know how glad I am to see you!” She was the respiratory therapist in ER when he was admitted, unconscious, in shock and gasping to breathe.
At Thanksgiving, the whole family — including Shannon’s sons Mark of Akron and Matthew of Grand Rapids, Mich. — got together for the holiday and his 86th birthday (Dec. 3).
“Dad still has his good days and bad days cognitively,” Brustoski noted. “He never complains about losing his arm.
“As always he appreciates when people come to visit him. If anyone wants to visit him, just call me at 330-631-6904 or his home at 330-666-4458.”
Francis Shannon now has a grandson as a roommate, and two nurses looking out for him.
Well, that’s when he’s home.
Here’s hoping his journey serves as an inspiration now and for always — but most especially during this Christmas season, when the message is all about hope and peace.
Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or email@example.com.