Paraplegic Randy Pullings Leaves the Snow Behind and Head for the Sunny South

Randy Pullings

Randy thought he had a shot in Jacksonville

Editor’s Note: When 37-year-old Randy Pullings of Jacksonville, Florida, almost died in a motorcycle accident, he made a dramatic change from the person he was to the person he is today. He went from being totally focused on living big and making money to being a minister and humanitarian. Here’s the story of his transformation. Part 4 of a 5 part series.

Randy Pullings knew that because of his physical condition, he had to move to a warmer climate. He looked for jobs in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and other southern states. He applied for a technical support job at a Wachovia bank in Jacksonville, Florida, was invited down for an interview and was offered the job. So, in March of 2008, he moved from New York to Florida with his three children. His oldest daughter Randi was just starting high school, his second daughter Brittany was in 8th grade, and his son Isaiah was in elementary school. “To be honest, my life was scary at first being that far away from my parents and the people I knew I could call on to help me,” Pullings explains. “But I knew that Florida was a better place to live, since it was more accessible than New York City. Also, the only place I’d be able to afford to live with three children in New York would be in a tiny apartment in a rough part of town, and I didn’t want that environment for my children. I felt like if God was with me, then I had everything I needed to make it in Florida.”

“I had an apartment on the south side of Jacksonville, and it was the best apartment I’d ever had, mainly because of the way it was laid out,” Pullings reports. “In New York, there weren’t many apartments set up for people in wheelchairs. I could roll my wheelchair into this apartment, the bathroom was easily accessible, and there wasn’t any snow.”

After the divorce, Pullings reconnected with a woman he knew from childhood. “We grew up the same neighborhood. She was a sergeant in the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Department.” They began to talk, and Pullings told her how his life had changed, and what he was doing. He explained that he was now in a wheelchair, had three children and was living in Florida. As time went by, they began to date, flying back and forth to see each other. After 6 months Kimberley’s  work schedule allowed her to work three consecutive shifts, and then be off for 4 days at a time to go to Florida. As the romance developed, Kimberley realized that she was only 2 years away from retiring from the NYPD, because she’d started working for them in her early twenties. So, for 2 years, she flew back and forth between Florida and New York. During that time, Kimberley applied for retirement from the MTAPD and has since retired.

Randy with Eugene Rivers, the man who would help change his life.

Randy with Eugene Rivers, the man who would help change his life.

During this time, Pullings met a man who would change his life. While grocery shopping one day, a man named Eugene Rivers rolled up to him in his wheelchair. Rivers said, “Hey man, I want you to meet a friend of mine.” His friend was the pastor of a church. Rivers said, “This pastor’s in a wheelchair too,” so Pullings agreed to meet him. Pullings went to the church, and both men invited him to come to the wheelchair support group at Shands Jacksonville Medical Center. “When I went to that support group, I couldn’t believe there were other people in wheelchairs just like me,” Pullings remembers. “They understood what I was going through, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Up until that time, I didn’t know other people in chairs. But at Shands, I met a lot of people in wheelchairs. I could ask questions about how they were handling problems, and we had a lot in common.

“I was amazed that these people had many of the same goals and objectives that I had, and they were in wheelchairs just like me. I couldn’t believe how they took care of each other. For instance, one time I was running low on medical supplies, and one of the guys in the support group said, ‘Hey, I’ve got an extra case of supplies. Just take this case, and use it.’ I was paying $125 a case for my supplies, and he just gave me a case for free. I tried to pay him for it, and he said, ‘No, I didn’t pay for it, so you don’t have to pay for it either. Don’t you get Medicare and Medicaid?’ When I answered, yes, he said, ‘They’ll pay for your medical supplies.’” This was a whole new concept for Pullings to understand. He and his family didn’t know anyone else in a wheelchair, so they always paid for all of Pullings’ medical supplies, and it created a terrible financial drain on the family. “Once I realized that other people didn’t have to suffer from a lack of knowledge like my family and I had, I dedicated myself to making sure that I helped everyone learn the different types of help they could receive if they were in wheelchairs,” Pullings emphasizes. “I learned that in many cases, giving people knowledge was just as good as giving them money. I was appointed to the disability clinic in Jacksonville and I told all my wheelchair friends not to throw out their old wheelchairs. We would take those old, used wheelchairs to the disability clinic, and they would fix them to give to patients who were waiting on wheelchairs from Medicaid. You wouldn’t believe how many people leave the hospital in those big, heavy hospital wheelchairs and how long they have to stay in them until they got their own chairs from Medicaid. We encourage people to get outside and socialize as much as possible, and that’s hard to do when you’ve got a heavy wheelchair.”

Randy's wife, Kim, flew back and forth from New York to Jacksonville for two years to be with Randy.

Randy’s wife, Kim, flew back and forth from New York to Jacksonville for two years to be with Randy.

After Pullings was introduced to the support group, he got involved with them. At that time, the coordinator for the support group was an employee of the hospital, so whenever that employee left, the group would have to adjust to a new coordinator. The group began to discuss getting a member of the group to become the coordinator. The first person nominated had been a member of the group for 20 years, but he didn’t have the time to meet the coordinating responsibilities. The group then asked Pullings to become their coordinator, and he’s been the coordinator for the past 5 months, as of this writing.

To learn more about the Shands Brain & Spinal Cord Injury Support Group, visit their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Shands-Brain-Spinal-Cord-Injury-Support-Group/128779573804624.

Next: Randy Pullings’ New Life 

 

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com

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