Two wheels, two different worlds: from motorcycle to wheelchair

"Where There's a Will, There's a Way"


   Will Archibald at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.

By Samantha Pearsall

Gas prices are up again and so are motorcycle sales. But with more motorcyclists on our roadways, statistics show more serious accidents are bound to occur. The Cape is no exception. On Mother’s Day this year, 27-year-old William (“Will”) Archibald of Chatham was involved in a brutal motorcycle accident in Harwich that left him paralyzed from the chest down with brain and spinal cord injuries. He faces just a four to five percent chance of ever walking again and instead of riding his motorcycle now the only two wheels that carry him are his wheelchair.

A fateful accident

Will was riding his Suzuki down Queen Anne Road on his way home from work at The Vitamin Shoppe in Hyannis. In fact, he was headed to Stop and Shop at exit 10 off Route 6 in Harwich to buy a card for his mother; but ordinarily he would have taken exit 11. According to family and friends Will was a safe and cautious driver; he never would have a drink if he knew he would be riding.

will_archibaldWill at rehab at the Shepherd Center.

“We don’t really know exactly what happened, and it doesn’t really matter. It was just him. No car hit him and he did not hit anyone else. The accident report estimated speed was involved and caused him to lose control,” said Emily Johnson, Will’s sister.

According to the Harwich Police Department that arrived on the scene, Will had failed to negotiate a curve and ran into a utility pole. He was found laying face down in a neighbor’s yard with two witnesses tending to him. He was immediately Medflighted to Boston Medical Center.

From Boston to Atlanta

After spending 11 days in intensive care in Boston, including a ten-hour surgery to stabilize his spine, Will was finally flown down to Atlanta where he was admitted into the Shepherd Center, one of the best rehabilitation centers for spinal cord injuries. For the past month Will has kept a very positive attitude, according to Emily who spent the past five weeks by her brother’s side through surgery, severe pain, physical therapy, and emotional strain. She stayed in Shepherd’s brand new fully furnished residential center where family members can live free of charge for 30 days while their loved one is recuperating.

“He’s been doing really well. He was physically strong before the accident, lifted weights and worked out, and was really into nutrition so that’s helped his recovery,” she said, “but there’s still a lot of ups and downs.”

Insurance: "not medically necessary?"

“People are young and think they’re invincible,” Emily said, “but life can change in just a nanosecond.”

One of the downs being getting his insurance to cover many of the medical expenses, including the $10,900 flight to transfer him to the specialized rehabilitation facility in Atlanta. Although Will had decent health insurance, many of the costs of medical services and supplies have been deemed “not medically necessary” and “convenience items” by his insurance company, which refuses to pay. In addition to his flight to the Shepherd Center, a shower chair, raised toilet seat, and various exercise equipment for continued at-home physical therapy are not currently covered under his policy.

"Where There's a Will, There's a Way"

Frustrated and disappointed with the insurance company, Will’s family and friends decided to hold a fundraiser in an effort relieve some of these financial burdens. Next Friday, June 26 the Chatham VFW will host “Where There’s a Will There’s a Way.” From 6 to 11 p.m. there will be a pig roast, live band, silent auction, and t-shirts. The fundraiser, which will benefit The National Transplant Assistance Fund (NTAF) and Spinal Cord Injury Fund in honor of Will, costs $25 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and under.

Helmet, helmet, helmet!

will_archibaldA reminder for motor vehicle drivers to be more aware of motorcycles on the road.

“People are young and think they’re invincible,” Emily said, “but life can change in just a nanosecond.” It certainly can as motorcyclists are five times more likely to be injured than passengers in a car. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2007 there were over 7 million motorcycles on the roadways and nearly 5,200 fatalities, which was the most ever recorded. However, almost 2,000 lives were saved by helmets and 800 more could have been saved if helmets had been worn. In a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration two years ago, the Northeast had the lowest percentage of helmet usage in country at only 45 percent.

Emily’s advice to anyone considering purchasing a motorcycle: “Buy a really good helmet and wear it all the time. Just like you should wear a seat belt all the time. Will had a really good helmet and I swear to God it saved his life.”

Keep track of Will

Will is expected to be released from the inpatient center on July 1 and then begin Shepherd’s day program, which is covered under his insurance. In this program he will live in one of the facility’s 84 wheel-chair accessible suites, be responsible for caring for himself, and be involved in daily intensive therapy that will be tailored to his personal goals. This program is up to six weeks long, and then Will has plans of moving in with his sister who is looking to buy a new home in Raleigh, NC with her husband.

For more information about the fundraiser, how to donate to NTAF, or to donate an item for the silent auction please contact Will’s friend and fundraiser organizer Michael Peltier at 508.237.0936.

To track Will's progress, visit his sister Emily's daily blog here.

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