Fallon couple counts their blessings after accident
November 22, 2006
After spending nine months in hospitals, Kerry Capps is happy to be home – and thankful that she has a home she can still call her own.
Capps, 33, was traveling down a gravel road near Pyramid Lake on a cold, winter night early last December, headed to her grandparents’ home in Fernley, when she rolled her truck. The truck came to rest on its passenger side, leaving Capps dangling by her seat belt. When she released the seat belt, her life was forever changed. She broke her neck and instantly became a quadriplegic.
“I knew I couldn’t move,” she said. “I was just stuck upside down.”
Although she doesn’t remember the day, she learned that it was several hours before some bird hunters found her and called for help. Capps was flown by Care Flight to Renown Medical Center in Reno.
Back in Fallon, Harley, Kerry’s husband of 11 years, received a call from Kerry’s parents saying she had been in an accident. He said he thought at the time it was a ranching accident with a cow, since she was on her way to help with cattle.
“I didn’t know the gravity of the situation until I got there,” Harley said.
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He said she looked fine except for a little frostbite on her ear, and the fact that she couldn’t move her arms or legs. Kerry said the doctors only gave her a 10 percent chance of ever walking again.
“I didn’t believe them. I thought, ‘Just bring me that walker. I think I can do it.’ Maybe I don’t believe it yet,” she said, adding that just the other night she woke up and tried to get up for a glass of water and fell.
Following a month’s stay at Renown, Kerry was transferred to Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colo., a facility specializing in spinal cord injuries. She lived with a tracheotomy for nine months and was in a halo device for six months. She said because of the tracheotomy and an infection at the site, she was unable to eat or drink for six months.
“You know they’re acting in your best interest, but I just wanted a drink of water,” she said.
Her mother-in-law, Mary Blain-Bolling, is a coma survivor and went through a long healing process.
“I understood her,” she said. “It’s so hard to understand unless you’ve been there.”
Kerry has a few lively tales of her time at Craig Hospital, like practical jokes she and fellow patients played on their nurses. But mostly, she missed home.
“I felt so lonely,” she said quietly.
She said there was a reflection in the ceiling fan in her room that looked like her cat which she focused on. But the person she missed the most was her husband, Harley.
“I missed my buddy,” she said.
Kerry said when Harley came to visit once, he brought their Jack Russell terrier, Hooch, with him.
“I told him ‘You look just like Paris Hilton – you’re tall, blonde and have a little dog in your arms.'”
Both Harley and Kerry received donated time from their co-workers following the accident. Kerry, who worked for the Farm Service Agency for less than a year before her accident, received a paycheck the entire time she was hospitalized thanks to donated hours from FSA employees from around the country.
Harley, who is employed by the Churchill County Road Department, also received donated time off from his co-workers that allowed him to visit Kerry as much as possible. He’s still impressed with his co-workers’ generosity, especially since they’re the kind of guys that like to go hunting and fishing, he said.
It was also Harley’s co-workers at the road department who found the application for a community service project, sponsored by the Churchill County High School construction class and instructor Louie Mori, to renovate the Capps’ home and make it wheelchair accessible for Kerry.
Harley said he turned in the application two days before the deadline and soon received a phone call from Mori saying the application was chosen.
The existing house was rather small. Harley said it was a 1930 Sears Roebuck two-story kit house, all 500 square feet of it.
Harley said after Mori saw the house, he asked Harley, “How attached to this house are you? We’re either going to add on or build you a new one.”
The high school class was not the only group in Fallon to get behind the Capps’ home renovation project. When Mori began asking around town for donations of materials or time, offers came flooding in. Harley said they received donations from local hardware stores, general and specialty contractors and individuals.
Blain-Bolling, Kerry’s mother-in-law, said she was in Fallon when she received a call from Harley in Colorado telling her they needed to move out of the house in one day. Harley’s co-workers and the high school class moved the family out of the house within an hour.
“From there it was just a blur,” Harley said. “Whatever Louie asked for, he got.”
Harley is still moved by the generosity the community has shown to his family.
“The outpouring of human kindness just renewed our spirit,” said Blain-Bolling.
Back in Colorado, Kerry received updates about the renovation through Harley and Blain-Bolling and pictures taken with a cell phone.
“I think knowing I could come home to my little hideout was uplifting,” Kerry said.
She said Craig Hospital awarded her a grant, and the couple used the money to purchase new appliances for their kitchen.
Kerry was discharged from the hospital Aug. 21 but had to wait a few days until she saw her new house.
“Previously, you couldn’t see our house from the road. I wasn’t sure what to be looking for. We got halfway down the drive and I couldn’t see because of my tears,” Kerry said, her eyes welling up again at the memory of the first glimpse of her home.
“Sometimes I still just sit here and look around. I can’t believe this is my house.”
Kerry receives physical therapy three times a week and can now move her arms.
“I’ve already gained so much,” she said as she extends her arms above her head. “The doctors would say it’s not likely … but I think I could stand with a walker.”
“She’s made pretty amazing strides,” Harley said. “I’ve already seen new movement. I won’t be surprised by anything.”