Paraplegic Randy Pullings’ New Life in Spinal Cord Injury Peer Support Work

Randy was called to serve.

Randy was called to serve.

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 5 of a 5 part series.

The support group at Shands Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, is a well developed program. They not only try to meet the severely injured and their families as soon as the patients arrive at the hospital, they also visit with newly injured spinal-cord patients and traumatic brain-injury patients as long as they’re in the hospital. “My wife Kimberley meets with the families of these patients and tells them what financial assistance is available, tells them where and how to find wheelchairs and answers many of the questions that families have,” says Pullings. “She gives them advice on what they can be doing to prepare while their loved ones are still in the hospital.”

“When Kimberley was down in Jacksonville on one of her trips, we were having a luncheon for the support group, and she agreed to come and help serve food,” Pullings recalls. “She really enjoyed meeting the people, so I took her with me to visit a hospital. While I was talking to the young man in the hospital bed, Kimberley started talking to the young man’s mother. I realized that she was able to comfort the mother in a way I couldn’t. I was able to offer comfort and understanding to the patient but really not help the families very much. After that hospital visit, I realized that one thing our group was missing was an avenue of support for the patients’ family members. We finally realized that if you’re a parent, a spouse or a child, and you have a loved one who is going through surgery and rehabilitation, you really go through the same process with that loved one. You actually take on the same burden as the person you’re trying to comfort. We realized that we really helped a lot of patients by teaching their families when to push and when not to push and when to help and when not to help, to let the patient learn on his or her own. We learned that by providing information for the family, we were actually helping the patients in a major way as well.”

Randy's wife, Kimberley, has an important role in the support group.

Randy’s wife, Kimberley, has an important role in the support group.

Randy and Kimberley, besides leading the support group, are also now full-time pastors at Kingdom Christian Center, a church they founded in Jacksonville. At present, the church has 50 members and is still growing. Pullings says, “At first the church was just made up of our family, but then more and more people started coming. But most people don’t know that we’re pastors until several months after we meet them. We don’t care what denomination an injured person may be, or whether they’re atheists. We minister to them and support them, because they’re people with spinal-cord and traumatic-brain injuries, and people in our group have been where they are, have learned to deal with the problems they encounter and have come out stronger on the other side. We want to help, to give hope and to give encouragement.”

The Pullings haven’t reached the end of their mission. As a matter of fact, they’ve just begun. “I want to develop a nonprofit that helps and assists injured athletes,” says Pullings. “One of the problems we have in helping people recover is that many patients want to get back into sports, and to do that, they need specialized equipment. Some of this equipment is quite expensive. Hopefully one day this nonprofit will be able to get an injured person the equipment he or she really needs to participate in the sports they enjoy. We also want to have more wheelchairs we can loan to people to use until Medicaid purchases a wheelchair for them. We would also love to help purchase sliding boards, hand controls for automobiles and other equipment that people need but don’t have the money to buy.”

Randy would love to be able to provide athletes with equipment, like this rugby wheelchair, to get them active after an injury.

Randy would love to be able to provide athletes with equipment, like this rugby wheelchair, to get them active after an injury.

The Shands support group has about 75 members, with about 40 people coming to each monthly meeting. “We’ve learned that some people in wheelchairs decide the most they can do is handle their own situation, and that’s fine,” Pullings mentions. “But other people in wheelchairs have the attitude of, ‘I want to help as many people as I can, however I can.’ And, some people are trying to fight the idea that they need help. We’ve found that the wheelchair either can bring out the best or the worst that’s within a person. It amplifies the type of person you really are.”

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.

 

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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