By Carol Stiffler

Greg Moore left home on October 17, 2023 and hasn’t been back since. Moore, a real estate agent, husband, father, track coach, and Engadine School Board member from Curtis, was running an errand that day when the unthinkable happened.

He was standing on the tailgate of his truck when he lost his balance. Moore, a tall man, caught one arm on part of the truck as he fell, hitting the ground head first.

“It bent my neck backwards, broke the top three vertebrae in five different places,” Moore said in an interview from the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids. “Now I have two titanium rods and 14 screws in my upper back.”

The accident would have killed a normal man, Moore said. But he survived.

Moore spent 10 days at a Marquette hospital before being transferred to Mary Free Bed in very poor condition.

“When I got here, I could move one foot a little bit. Just the toes at the end of my foot and some of the toes. I couldn’t move anything on my other foot. One hand couldn’t move; the other could wiggle a little bit.”

He was the first of three local men to arrive at Mary Free Bed last year. Another man suffered spinal cord injuries and the third had a dramatic brain injury after a fall. Moore is the only one still at Mary Free Bed.

Including today, Moore has been away from home for 141 days. On March 12 he anticipates being moved to another floor at the rehabilitation hospital, one that provides care but cuts in half the amount of therapy he does each day. He’s currently spending 90 minutes in physical therapy and 90 minutes in occupational therapy daily.

During Moore’s first interview for this article, held at the beginning of February, he had managed to walk 790 feet aided by a walker and a therapist at hand. By last week, he was doing laps and strolled 2,300 feet with his walker.

“I’ll be using a walker for a long time,” Moore said.

Nurse Ashley Baker has been working with Moore since his arrival to Mary Free Bed.

“Greg was dependent for almost everything,” Baker said. “He depended on us to roll him from side to side. He was very weak in all four limbs… Now, he walks laps around our floor on a daily basis. He has made tremendous progress.”

Through it all, Moore has kept a positive outlook. He shares rehab space with children born with life-limiting disabilities and watches them laugh and play.

“I’ve been alive 62 years before I had an accident,” Moore said. “Some of them can’t even hardly walk. They were born that way. But they’re laughing, having a great time at the pool. It just humbles me. … I have no reason to be feeling sorry for myself.”

Baker has come to know Moore well during his stay and will miss him when he moves out of her unit next week.

“I saw the discharge date on his board a couple weeks ago,” Baker said. “I was a little heartbroken, but also excited because he’s made such tremendous progress.”

Moore wants to come home but has more therapy ahead of him first. What’s worse is that he can’t possibly go home until his house is made accessible for him. Moore was in the process of building a new home prior to his fall. While the interior of the home is almost done, interior work is required to make his home handicap accessible. A new shower must be installed, and the floors have to be replaced with heavy-duty surfaces to withstand wheelchair pressure.

On the exterior, the siding isn’t on, and the garage has four walls but is waiting on trusses and a roof.

Close friend Jeff Mouch, who owns Jeff Mouch Builders, is voluntarily working on Moore’s home in spare moments between paying jobs. He works with some assistance from three of his sons, ages 11, 13, and 15, but would appreciate help.

Almost all the necessary materials are already on site. One key piece is not there yet: a vertical platform lift that will enable Moore to get into his split-level home. The ground floor is six feet off the ground.

“Once we get a lift at the house, I can choose to go home,” Moore said. “Right now it’s looking like at least a couple more months.”

Mouch is creating and gathering bids for the lift, but other projects can be done while that process continues.

“If we could get a crew going on the siding and on the trusses, it would be awesome,” Mouch said.

Though construction skills would be a bonus, Mouch can use help from anyone who can lift, carry, and perform basic tasks.

If you can help, send an email to The Newberry News is collaborating with efforts to prepare Moore’s home for his return.

Moore is very touched by the community response to his accident. A benefit dinner for Moore held late last fall was well-attended, and his friends Norm Burton, Jeff Mouch, and Freddy Burton have been particularly helpful.

“They’re good friends who take care of us,” Moore said. “I’m thankful for the community we have.”