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Love, Prayer Bring Youth From Darkness To Light

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Love, Prayer Bring Youth From Darkness To Light

By Mary Jo Staples
(News Staff Reporter)

MANCHESTER — "We were told our son probably wouldn't live and, should he survive, the brain damage was so extensive that he would never be able to do anything again." So says Mrs. James Heslip of Manchester.

Ten months after a near-fatal automobile accident, David Heslip, 19, is smiling and wheeling himself around the house in his wheelchair.

The miraculous recovery hasn't been easy and isn't complete, but it gives the family hope and joy during the season of miracles, Christmas.

David, a freshman at Michigan State University, described as "a boy full of enthusiasm. . .who wanted to extend happiness to others," was driving alone to MSU the evening of March 2, 1970, after a weekend at home. His car went through a guard rail on an overpass on US-17 and crashed onto the pavement below.

Two boys found the car almost immediately but they didn't see the victim. When they started to leave, David made a faint sound from under the dashboard (the car was upside down). They called a fire department rescue car to rush him to Sparrow Hospital in Lansing.

David spent 19 days in intensive care and his parents say, "During that time we went through the agony of watching him lie for days on an ice mattress to try to bring his temperature of 105 down so further damage wouldn't occur to the brain."

Suffering from a brain stem injury, David showed little improvement after four months. The hospital suggested he be transferred to a nursing home "because they could no longer help him medically speaking," says Mrs. Heslip. HIs weight had dropped from 185 pounds to 116.

"David was a living skeleton and about as lifeless," says Mrs. Heslip. "He couldn't move his head on the pillow. He had paralysis on the right side and the only movements were spastic behavior."

Mrs. Heslip says on a Sunday in June "I had an assured feeling God was with me and I should hurry up to the hospital, that something good awaited me. . .During our visit David extended his hand and touched my face. This was the first gesture to let us have any hope."

The Heslips brought David home to their small farming community in July. With the help of a nurse twice weekly, a physical therapist three times a week, and neighbors, David is slowly relearning to talk, move his limbs and walk.

He started to communicate just by blinking. David can wink, blow out a candle and say "yes and no." For eight months he was fed through a tube, but now he is spoon fed.

"Everybody, when he gets up, goes in and gives David a hug. Each works his own way to teach him," says Mrs. Heslip.

His sisters, Jennifer, 18, and Michele, 8, and brothers, Charlie, 16, and Daniel, 11, include David in play and conversation.

"The first thing you learn is that you don't take sorrow alone," Mrs. Heslip says. "We were fortunate we didn't have to because our friends began to appear with outstretched hands and prayers in their hearts."

Citizens of Manchester sponsored a benefit dance and raffle for David and earned $1,200 toward medical expenses and equipment necessary to care for him at home.

Heslips tell of neighbors who bring food and candy for David. Candy was the first thing he ate. Others visit weekly to help him learn the alphabet and numbers again. They help him with his speech and work on manual dexterity through puzzles.

Two elderly neighbors quilted a lap robe and shawl for David and area churches donate Sunday School collections to buy equipment.

He is gaining weight and strength and each day that he accomplishes a new task is a special day for his family. Mrs. Heslip says, "Oct. 5 was our big event: He laughed just out of the clear blue sky."

Cathy Roglitz, David's social worker from St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, says, "His sense of humor has been a saving factor." To celebrate the holiday season he kissed Cathy under the mistletoe on a recent home visit.

In high school the tall, handsome boy played football for three years and served as president of the Future Farmers of America.

These activities are only memories for his family now. "We are working toward his first steps. I know we will accomplish this," says Mrs. Heslip. "What the future holds for our son? How much he will progress mentally only time will tell.

"When we left the hospital, we were told he would come out of the unresponsive daze by 10 or 15 per cent. I didn't want to ask what that meant because I wanted to work with him."

Mrs. Heslip says at their las hospital visit she had the courage to ask the doctor what he meant by 10 to 15 per cent recovedry. He said David had already improved 100 per cent.

It's Christmas Eve at the farm house on 9330 Sharon Hollow Rd. What is a miracle? "Love, neighbors' helping hands and prayer can bring a boy from darkness into light," Mrs. Heslip says.