OKLAHOMA — An Oklahoma man was nearly crushed by a falling tree, his bones shattered like a piece of glass. The accident left many to wonder if the long distance runner would ever walk again.
Dan Waugh was on a disaster recovery trip in Jasper, Texas with a group from the Memorial Road Church of Christ when the accident happened.
The town was overwhelmingly damaged after a hurricane struck.
“They’d had all their red cedars just toppled off, crushing houses and cars,” Waugh said.
“I’d been wearing a ball cap all week, cutting down trees with a 20-24 inch chain saw. Somebody asked me, ‘Hey Dan why don’t you put on this hardhat.’”
It was the final day of work, but Dan put on the hard hat and went to cut another tree.
“The tree was a little in a precarious position. I said, you know, I really don’t like this tree,” Waugh said.
But he went ahead, cutting a “V” into the tree. And as he started to cut on the other side, the tree came booming down on Waugh, hitting him in the head and shattering his pelvis.
“When the tree hit my pelvis, they said it was like shrapnel going off inside.”
With a broken pelvis, neck, and ribs, internal bleeding, and a punctured lung, Dan was rushed from one Texas hospital to another in need of life-saving care.
And while Dan was fighting for his life, his wife, Robin, was back in Edmond getting a heart-wrenching phone call that her husband had been hurt.
“They proceeded to tell me this couple from church, that I did not know very well, was going to come over and they were going to fly me down there,” Robin said.
She said, “I was just sort of in shock.”
Hours later, still reeling, Robin was in Galveston, watching as Dan was wheeled into surgery.
He made it through the first operation, and had several more to follow. A week later, Dan was flown to Oklahoma to begin a grueling recovery.
At that point, with rods sticking out of his waist, he began to wonder what his future may be.
“I asked Robin, ‘Am I going to get to walk, am I going to walk again,’” said Dan. “She goes, ‘Sure, no problem.’”
“I just said that to be encouraging,” said Robin. “I was very concerned about his emotional state because if he couldn’t walk again, I knew that would be the hardest thing ever for him.”
One doctor told Dan the X-ray of his neck mirrored that of a quadriplegic, yet just 13 weeks after the accident, he did something incredible. Dan Waugh began to walk.
“I’m always the type of guy, especially in therapy, to ask what I needed to do and see if I could double it,” Dan said.
A staph infection temporarily paralyzed his arms, but after even more surgery, he was determined to get back on his feet.
It’s been almost 10 years since Dan’s accident. While he cannot feel the top of his foot, he can run. Just weeks ago, he walked his daughter down the aisle.
Looking back now, he knows someone was watching out for him.
“I look at the hardhat I was wearing that day, and the crack that’s in it; that saved my life, ” Dan said.
Dan and Robin both believe they were carried through this experience by those around them and, most of all, by their faith in God.
Dan said, “I just praise God every day that He gave me the ability to come back and be able to walk, be able to run, be able to be with the family.”
While Dan is doing incredibly well, his recovery continues.
Just recently, he had to have another surgery to remove scar tissue that had wrapped around his intestines.
But regardless of the everything that he has gone through, with faith and a determination, Dan continues to do disaster recovery work.