Most of the medical professionals who helped save Barry Nealy’s life thought he was a “dead man.”
But less than a year after a horrific motorcycle accident that nearly claimed his life, Nealy is back to work – with a slight limp and some minor aches – as director of missions for the Three Forks Baptist Association in Boone. He and his wife, Donna, remain thankful to God and the support of friends for his recovery.
“I can’t explain why [God chose to] save the life of a guy who is over 60,” said the 65-year-old Nealy, who spoke during a chapel service a few weeks ago at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina in Cary.
“Truly, many people thought he was a dead man,” said Donna, who also spoke during the service. “[But] God had other plans.”
On March 22, Nealy crashed his 1980 Yamaha XS 1100 into a Ford sedan on a mountain road 12 miles west of Boone. The accident happened about 20 minutes away from the couple’s home. The impact sent Nealy over the handlebars and head first into the windshield of the oncoming car. The trooper on the scene estimated that the combined speed of the two vehicles was about 70 miles per hour. The other motorist suffered only minor injuries.
BR photo by Shawn Hendricks
Barry and Donna Nealy shared their story during chapel at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Nealy, director of missions for Three Forks Baptist Association, was nearly killed in a motorcycle accident in March.
“I don’t really know if we were going that fast or not,” said Nealy, who has no memory of the accident. “They transported me by helicopter, and they didn’t think I’d make it to the hospital.”
Nealy was airlifted to Johnson City Medical Center in Tennessee where doctors performed emergency surgery. He remained in the Intensive Care Unit there for 15 days. Nealy remembered waking up with tubes in his lungs and being hooked up to a ventilator. In addition to both of his lungs collapsing, his injuries included a fractured left collarbone, a “crushed” pelvis and a damaged femoral artery that caused “a lot of internal bleeding.” Some speculated whether he’d be able to use his left foot again.
Doctors later told Nealy they didn’t think he’d make it 48 hours after surgery.
“Thankfully … they didn’t say that to my wife,” Nealy said.
Donna, shared how the support of so many people helped her through the difficult days following the accident.
“The network was amazing,” she said. “All along God sent people our way … some I knew, some I didn’t. Once I knew word had gotten out, and people were praying for us, I knew [God] was holding my hand. I had peace that passes understanding.”
Nealy remained hospitalized for a total of 35 days. He wore a neck brace as a precaution for seven weeks following the accident, but he did not suffer any serious injuries to his neck.
Nealy said he occasionally talks to the medical personnel and ambulance workers who helped him on that horrible day in March. Many of them have surprised looks on their faces. Nealy admits to being surprised himself.
“I didn’t break a finger nail. I didn’t chip a tooth,” Nealy said during the chapel service. “I didn’t have any damage to my neck.”
Though he gives all credit to God for his recovery, Nealy remains thankful for the medical personnel who cared for him. He said the accident gave him a new perspective and appreciation for those who help others on a daily basis and receive little credit for their efforts.
“If you’ve been in the ministry for 45 minutes you’ve been there,” he said. “If you’re in the ministry, you’re in the process of saving people’s eternal lives and some of them don’t care if they know your name. But the important thing is the One who called you knows your name.”
“What God did for me a few months ago, that’s what God did for me a number of years back before that in a whole different way,” said Nealy, recalling how God also saved him spiritually through Jesus Christ.
While Nealy was in the hospital he found opportunities to share his faith with the hospital staff. Those conversations included one with a doctor who grew up Buddhist. Nealy pointed his doctor to the Bible and prays he will become involved in a small group that is going on near his home. “It was a great opportunity to point out [the] Truth,” Nealy said.
Though most may never go through an accident like Nealy, he described it as just “one of many experiences” people go through in life. And he hopes this experience will allow him more opportunities to point people to Jesus.
Earlier this month, Nealy wrote a first-person article for the Watauga Democrat, a local newspaper. In the article he shared the following:
“Life is not automatic and my recovery, after five months, goes forward with some struggle, but it is worthwhile. Many have prayed for me and shared with me their encouragement. A few have threatened me if I ever think about riding a motorcycle again … I am thankful for the concern and prayers of hundreds of people. The Valley of Death has opened, for me, into ‘The Way, the Truth and the Life.’”_ÑŒ
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of the Biblical Recorder, North Carolina’s source for Baptist news.)