INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — When James and Linda Henderson climbed into their Ford Escape last February to head west on Interstate 70, the longtime married couple had no way of knowing it would be their last time together.
Icy road conditions caused a big-rig to go off the interstate near Oak Grove, eventually causing a tragic 47-car pile-up.
Linda Henderson, 74, died on the scene.
“I learned that my wife had died, and she had been buried, and I didn’t get to go,” Jim Henderson recalled Monday.
Jim Henderson was pinned under the wreckage with a broken neck, back and shoulder. He remained in a coma for days. The extent of Henderson’s injuries meant he would need to relearn how to walk.
“We knew that he was a fighter. We believed it,” said Laura Spooner, Henderson’s daughter. “We knew that he would come out of the coma. We knew that he would walk again.”
The rehab specialists at Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence celebrated Jim Henderson’s remarkable recovery at a ceremony at the hospital on Monday afternoon.
“I’m walking now, and it’s all because of them,” Henderson said.
Abby Aldrich, a rehab technician at Centerpoint, marveled at the fighting spirit Henderson demonstrated during their often grueling sessions.
“He is my most inspirational patient in my career here at Centerpoint,” Aldrich said. “Everything that he’s been through, that he’s lost, where he started and came from — he’s miraculous.”
Henderson said the will to fight came because of the love and support of his surviving family members.
His wife, Linda Henderson, was well-known locally for decades of dedication to the Girl Scouts. One of Linda Henderson’s signature skills was crafting walking sticks. She was even known as “The Walking Stick Lady.”
So on Monday, to celebrate Jim Henderson’s will to live and his ability to walk out of the hospital, the caretakers at Centerpoint presented him with a walking stick in memory of his beloved wife.
“It’s kind of an honor to her,” Jim Henderson said, overcome with emotion, “and what she did.”