As we celebrate Mother’s Day, this article is an absolute must read. It demonstrates the power of a mother’s unconditional love. If you haven’t read the article written by Skip Hollandsworth in the May, 2009 TexasMonthly publication, you simply must do so as soon as you have finished reading this. These are simply the cliff notes version, and if you don’t read Skip’s entire article, you will miss one of the most powerful pieces of journalism I have ever read. I have provided a link at the end of this article for reference.
On the morning of October 17, 1973, John Mcclamrock eagerly got out of bed to face the day. A 17-year-old senior at Hillcrest High School in Dallas, Texas, John was a favorite with Hillcrest girls. That morning he sat restlessly through his classes, and at lunch drove to the nearest Burger King to grab a Whopper. On the way back to school, he cranked up the volume to the Allman Brothers“ Ramblin Man” on the radio in his El Camino. He walked excitedly toward the boys locker room to put on his football uniform, because that afternoon the junior va1rsity was playing Spruce High School, and John was looking forward to showing his coaches what he could do. He was 5’11” tall and weighed 160 pounds, and was the wedge buster on kickoffs, assigned the task of breaking up the other teams front line of blockers. John was determined to make varsity, and this was the week he planned to do it. On Hillcrest’s opening kickoff, John burst through the first blockers and headed for the ballcarrier. He lowered his head, and as the 2 collided, John’s chin caught the runners thigh. The sound, one teammate later said, was like “a tree trunk breaking in half.”
John’s head snapped back, and he fell face first to the ground. For the next several seconds there was nothing but silence. As there were no cell phones in that era, a coach had one of the players run to the high school’s main office to call an ambulance. When it arrived 15 minutes later, John was still on the ground, his body still. “You’ve got some pinched nerves,” a referee told him speaking into the ear hole of this helmet. “You’ll be up in no time.”
As soon as he was wheeled into Presbyterian Hospital, doctors knew differently. They took x-rays, and gave him a complete neurological exam. A Hillcrest administrator called John’s mother Ann, a 54-year-old striking woman with strawberry blonde hair. When she arrived at the hospital, a doctor quietly asked her if she had any religious preference. Looking bewildered, she told the doctor she was Catholic. “Maybe you should call your priest, in case you need to deliver your son his last rights,” the doctor said. “We’re not sure he’s going to make it through the night.” The doctor informed Ann that John had severely damaged his spinal cord, and was paralyzed from the neck down. The circulatory system had been disrupted, causing his blood pressure to fluctuate wildly, and he could not lift his head without blacking out. “It couldn’t be any worse,” the doctor said.
While it looked like Ann had taken the diagnosis calmly, in reality she was simply unable to comprehend the full meaning of what the doctor had told her. She stood at her son’s bedside until her husband, Mac, arrived with her other child, Henry, a quiet lad who was a freshman at Hillcrest. With the whole family together, Ann felt the tears coming. Turning toward the doctor she said, “my Johnny is not going to die. You wait and see. He is going to have a good life.” With her voice choking, she fell into Mac’s arms.
John made it through the night, and then through the next day. Friends flocked to the hospital, and one night nearly 100 of them were in the ICU waiting room. There were so many phone calls coming into the hospital about John that extra operators were brought in to work the switchboard. Local newspapers jumped on the story, and soon, just about everyone in Dallas was following John’s struggle to stay alive. Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry and star defensive back Charley Waters came to see him. “Buy a Drink for Johnny” booths were set up in shopping malls all over the city, with proceeds from the one dollar soft drinks going to the family. At Hillcrest, numerous benefits were held to help the medical fund. After one of the national wire services ran a story about John, letters began pouring in from all over the country. In November, a letter arrived at the hospital from the most unlikely place of all, the White House. Pres. Richard Nixon, who was in the midst of the spectacular downfall from the Watergate scandal, had read about John and stopped what he was doing to write a sympathetic note. “Mrs. Nixon and I were deeply saddened to learn of the tragic accident which you suffered,” he began, “but we understand that you are a very brave young man, and that your courage at this difficult time inspires all who know you. You have a devoted family and many friends cheering for you, and we are proud to join them in sending warm wishes to you always.”
In December doctor suggested that John be moved to the Texas Institute for Rehabilitation and Research in Houston, (TIRR) which specializes in spinal injuries. When he left Presbyterian, there were nearly 4000 names listed on the guest register. At TIRR, John went through 2 hours of physical therapy every day, but by the following March he was still too weak to blow out the candles on his 18th birthday cake. Nevertheless, he told a Dallas morning news reporter that he would walk again, and probably would go back to playing football. “I will never give up,” he said. In late spring, doctors met with John’s parents and told them that not a single muscle below John’s neck had shown any response. He still couldn’t raise his head without losing consciousness, which meant there was almost no chance he would be able to sit in a wheelchair. “We found that 95% of the families who try to take care of someone in this condition cannot handle it,” one of the staffers told them. “The families breakup.” She handed them a sheet of paper. “These are the names of institutions and nursing homes that will take good care of him.”
This is the amazing and uplifting story of John, his indomitable spirit, and his incredible loving mom, Ann. Whatever you are doing right now, stop! Follow the link below to read the rest of this article.
Best Of series articles are those that showcase a product or place that is exceptional for those in the spinal cord community. Do you know of a story, product, or have you been to a place (restaurant, doctor’s office etc.) that has made your life much easier or better? Share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best Of series articles are those that showcase a product or place that is exceptional for those in the spinal cord community. Do you know of a story, product, or have you been to a place (restaurant, doctor’s office etc.) that has made your life much easier or better? Share it