When G.L. Woods flew over the handlebars of his dirt bike on the afternoon of Oct. 15, 2004, his body was tumbling upside down. His whole life was about to follow.
At the time his lifeless body came to rest on a dirt trail in the mountains of West Virginia, Woods believed he had died. He lay motionless with no sensation in his arms or legs. The only thing he could do was move his neck.
The diagnosis was bad.Woods had severely damaged his C3 vertebra. The spinal cord injury paralyzed him from the neck down.
“At the snap of a finger, I lost it all,” said Woods, who grew up in Jonesburg and graduated from Montgomery County High School in 1983.
Injuries were not uncommon for the self-proclaimed speed junkie. As a teenager, he broke his back in four places while in a motocross race. Several years later, he broke his left leg in another wreck.
This injury, however, made the previous ones seem minor.
Day His Life Changed
Woods, who has lived in Indiana since 1989, and a friend had traveled to West Virginia to ride their motorcycles in the mountains nearly eight years ago. He was driving around a corner when he unexpectedly met an oncoming group of ATVs.
His bike started to skid when he hit the brakes. He then went flying through the air.
His friend and the ATV drivers stopped to help Woods and summoned emergency responders to the scene. He eventually was taken to a hospital in Huntington, W.V., and then moved to a larger one in Indianapolis. At both stops, doctors told him the grim news. He wasn’t expected to walk again.
“I was 39 at that time,” said Woods, now 47. “My wife and I had been married 18 years. We had just built a new home. We had twins. They were getting ready to turn 4. It was devastating.”
The crash occurred five days after actor Christopher Reeve had died. Reeve had spent nine years as a quadriplegic after suffering a similar spinal injury in a horseback riding accident.
Fortunately, brighter days were ahead. The turning point in Woods’ recovery, he said, occurred when he began sharing a room in a rehabilitation hospital with another man.
The nurse told the man that during his stay they would like to get him to sit up in his bed. Overhearing the conversation, Woods learned the man had been lying in his bed for seven years.
“I wanted to cry,” he said. “I felt at that point God pulled on me. I felt peace. That is when I started fighting. I wanted to make it. I had perseverance. I was a junkyard dog. I wanted to make this happen.”
Soon after, Woods began to notice slight changes in his body movements. It began when he moved a finger. A few weeks later he could move two fingers, then his entire hand. Eventually he regained full use of his upper body and therapists began to teach him to walk again by placing him in a harness over a treadmill.
After two months spent in the rehab hospital, he drove his motorized wheelchair outside. He then stood up, and with the help of a cane, he walked to and got into a car that his wife was driving.
Woods was returning home.
“I was on top of the mountain,” he recalled. “I went from the darkest hour of my life to where I felt like I conquered the world. It was very exciting, and it still is.”
Delivering His Message
Since Woods’ paralyzing crash, he has traveled across the Midwest to deliver and share his spiritual journey about his recovery.
Each year, he speaks to first-year medical students at Indiana University who are interested in learning more about his spinal cord injury. He also speaks in churches, prisons, schools and camps.
With assistance from his mother, who continues to live in Jonesburg, Woods decided to write a book so his message could be heard by a larger audience.Earlier this summer, the book titled “Faith 911” was released.
The book can be purchased off Woods’ website — www.glwoods.com — or locally at Jonesburg State Bank branches in Jonesburg and Warrenton.
Inside the back cover of each book is a free DVD about Woods’ journey.
Doctors told Woods it was a miracle he was walking again, he said.
“The recovery is unheard of almost,” he said.
Every step he takes these days has a little more importance to it.
“God has really put amazing things in my path,” Woods said. “It’s a second chance. I truly think every day past Oct. 15 has been a gift to me.”