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Thursday, January 3, 2013
On Dec. 24, doctors at Carilion Clinic gave Doug Thompson a big fat Christmas present.
More than six weeks earlier, on Nov. 9, the Floyd-based journalist and blogger had hit a cow with his motorcycle on U.S. 221 at Poages Mill Road. He suffered a badly broken leg, and the accident nearly ripped off half his face. He almost died on the pavement that night.
But on Christmas Eve, the doctors discharged Thompson from Carilion’s rehabilitation center to his home in Floyd County. Last week he sent me an email.
“I still have several weeks and/or months of recovery ahead, including learning to walk again on my still healing broken leg and completing the therapy to restore my memory and other brain functions from the crash.
“I’m damn lucky to be alive.”
He added: “I come home humbled by the experience and the many get well cards, email messages, posts on Facebook and comments posted to your columns and the writings of others. With considerable rehab still pending, I cannot yet return to work on any of my projects, although I am writing some on [Blue Ridge] Muse and posting on Facebook.”
We spoke on Wednesday, and it was clear that Thompson hasn’t lost his sense of humor.
“One friend told me ‘The good news is, the plastic surgeon put your face back together. The bad news is, you still look the same.’ ”
That’s not exactly true — Thompson lost 45 pounds in the hospital. However, he’s managing to get around. He’s broken bread with his regular breakfast bunch at the Blue Ridge Restaurant twice since he’s been home.
The Dec. 2 column touched many readers, who responded with well-wishes for Thompson and his wife, Amy. One was Becky Bailey Pomponio from Willis.
“So many of us in and around Floyd have been worried about Doug’s condition and we really appreciate the details you provided — and the wonderful story about Doug’s career and personality,” she wrote. “How awful that life can change for the worse so quickly! But we’re all rooting for him.”
Rob Neukirch of Floyd wrote that he expects his friend to be back in the saddle soon.
“He always keeps it lively though he likes to say he’s going to retire from all that pot-stirring and take it easy. But like the song says, that’ll be the day.”
Teresa Ziegler of Roanoke County, who’s certified in information and referral for aging and disability, said the road ahead for Thompson will be rough, but there’s plenty of hope.
“I survived a near fatal car accident and had similar injuries to Doug’s,” she wrote. “Face, right ankle, chest, and closed head injury in my case. The first time I went to the mall, a child saw me and cried.
“My husband has a master’s in social work and survived a massive stroke at age 18. He had one-third of his brain removed, yet he graduated as an advanced standing student in his master’s in social work program.”
The other column that stirred many readers was on Dec. 11 about Grandin Automotive (formerly Texaco) and owner Bill Millner’s decision to close his old-fashioned gas and service station. Last year, Millner turned 70, and the station, which dates back more than six decades, hasn’t made any money in the past four years.
There’s news on that front: Millner remains open for business. His shop was so overrun by customers in the days that followed his announcement that he’s reconsidered closing.
The column “created almost a riot,” Millner told me Wednesday. “I was swamped with customers for four days. We probably had 300 or 400 people in here. I had women standing in the front room, bawling like babies. They said, ‘You can’t quit!’
“The customers made me feel so bad about quitting that I had to stay open.”
Millner said another reason he decided to stick with it is that his half-acre lot could lose its commercial zoning designation if the property was vacant for too long.
But he has listed it with a commercial business broker, “and I will keep it open until I find a suitable buyer. It may take a year,” he added. He’s still buying and selling gasoline, too.
One of many readers who will be happy to hear that is Richard Cook, who lives near Grandin Village.
“I don’t know what we will do with Bill and his team gone,” Cook wrote in an email. “There is no other all-around gas station/car repair anywhere around here that gives the kind of service Bill, Tim [Kessler] and the others offer.”
That’s it for the December reader mailbag, folks. Please keep those letters, emails and blog comments coming!
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