Newark man is taking it one step at a time for Laurel House

It’s been almost four years since the accident. Lying on the hard asphalt, Dave Murphy said he knew he was dying. He held onto the first responder beside him, the blood filling his lungs made it hard to breathe and he was keenly aware that he was paralyzed from the chest down. Had you asked Dave or any of his doctors if they thought he would ever be able to take part in a 5K race, the answer would’ve been no.

But Dave has never been one to sit back and let life pass him by.

On July 6, 2013, he was driving his motorcycle on Route 88 in Fairville on his way home when a car struck him broadside at the intersection of Maple Ridge Road. The car had been speeding and never stopped at the stop sign.

Dave’s life as he knew it was changed forever.

His injuries were massive – his back was broken in three places, he had internal injuries, his ribs were broken and his right leg was nearly amputated. Doctors told him he’d never walk again, but Dave was determined to prove them wrong. He wasted no time working his muscles, even while lying in the hospital bed, his wife, Tracy, sleeping in a chair beside him.

Six months after he returned home from the hospital, longtime friend, weight lifter, ex-Marine and Garlock employee Lee Powers started visiting Dave. Seeing Dave struggle and his determination to get out of his wheelchair, Lee became Dave’s trainer, coming by twice a week to help him exercise and doing a lot of research about Dave’s injuries and recovery.

The first time Dave stood up after the accident, he said, “God I’m tall!” He then taught himself to walk using a modified treadmill – another friend built a wooden seat that would catch Dave if he fell. Lee would move his legs on the treadmill and Dave would work on moving his hips.

The pain was excruciating.

“We’d talk while I walked and then I could make it,” Dave said about taking his mind off the pain. “That’s how I coped.”

Today Dave can walk 100 yards without falling, but he always has a spotter, Lee or Tracy, just in case.

Lee’s voluntary support has helped Dave keep going.

“I was just hoping to stand up,” he said, but now, “I’ve got a ‘I’m not going to let Lee down’ attitude that keeps me going.”

In relatively constant pain, Dave said everything is management now – managing pain, managing movement, managing day-to-day activities. And he sets goals.

“I set goals and I achieve goals,” he said. “That’s how I’ve gotten this far.”

His first goal was to stand up, his next was to walk and in five years be walking with a cane. Four years later and Dave is walking with two canes – just one cane away from his goal.

It was about a year ago when Dave decided he wanted to participate in a 5K for a good cause and when organizers announced the Laurel House 5K fundraiser, Dave said he knew that was the one for him.

Laurel House is a work in progress to turn a home that was donated to Newark-Wayne Community Hospital into a comfort care home. Laurel House Vice President Hank Hann said it will be similar to a hospice with the mission to provide a home-like atmosphere for someone nearing the end of life. A person staying at Laurel House will have a two-bedroom home, living area and kitchen. Family can stay as well. There isn’t another of its kind in Wayne County.

Having watched Tracy sleep cramped in a hard chair at the hospital for weeks, the Laurel House concept hit close to home for Dave. He wanted to help and when he announced he would take part in the 5K fundraiser, he set a goal of $10,000. He’s raised almost half of that in a matter of months.

“I’m so happy to do this,” he said. “I’ll do it and I’ll be better for it, stronger for it. It’s my mountain to overcome.”

Last Saturday, Dave walked a record two miles and by Tuesday, he was still paying for the exertion. A 5K is equivalent to about three miles. But saying I can’t isn’t in his vocabulary and giving up before he crosses the finish line isn’t an option.

“I’m going to do the whole thing,” he said confidently, although he admits he’s scared. “If I have to take a step an hour, I’m going to do the whole thing.”

Dave has found a huge support system on his Facebook page “Murphy Strong”. He’s shared every step of his recovery with those on his page and has received their words of love, caring and strength.

“Having everybody watching me is a big motivator,” he said. “They are the wind beneath my wings.”

Many of those supporters will likely be at the finish line as Dave walks across it – a feat he hopes to accomplish completely unaided.

Lee and Tracy will be walking with Dave throughout the walk and he said he’ll be talking the whole time. An emergency response vehicle will also be following, but Dave said “it’s there to pick me up if I fall.” He does not intend to fall though.

The race starts at 9 a.m. at St. Mark’s Church in Newark this Saturday, June 10th and runners are expected to start crossing the finish line around 9:30 a.m. Dave said he will be starting much earlier with the expectation that he will “finish with the pack.”

So what’s next for Dave? His new goal for the coming year is to climb Bristol Mountain.

“I tell Lee I’m dragging him up a mountain,” Dave said, adding he wants to do the climb as a fundraiser. “I want to help someone else, to pay it forward.”

There’s still time to donate for the Laurel House 5K. Visit https://www.crowdrise.com/laurel-house-comfort-care/fundraiser/davidmurphy15.

Join Dave’s supporters on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Murphy-Strong-161250410737624/.

Tammy Whitacre is a reporter for FL1 News covering Seneca and Wayne counties. Send news tips to [email protected] and follow @FL1_TWhitacre for the latest.

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