It’s your worst nightmare. You’re paralyzed from the neck down. Your hands and arms hang lifeless. You can’t walk. You can’t run. You can’t work. You can’t play. Every freedom you’ve taken for granted your entire life has been ripped away, leaving you feeling helpless, vulnerable and alone.
Mohawk Industries employee Gary Langley never imagined himself in such a frail state. The kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back, Langley was a man who had friends everywhere and could squeeze a smile from even the most rigid lips.
In January of last year, in his hometown of Dalton, Ga., Langley was loading a refrigerator onto a trailer when he slipped and fell - resulting in the refrigerator landing on top of him. Though in pain, Langley was still mobile. The doctor diagnosed it as spinal stenosis - swelling around the spinal cord.
Two weeks later, Langley fell again - this time without cause. He was rushed to the ER, where doctors removed a bone spur that broke off in his neck and wedged into his spinal cord. They rebuilt his C5 vertebrae using bone tissue from his leg. They suspected that the spinal swelling had worsened to the point of putting so much pressure on his spinal cord that his legs went numb, causing him to fall to the ground.
The result was total paralysis from the neck down.
Langley spent a long, hard week in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit, unsure that he would survive. Doctors struggled to get him off a ventilator - the muscles in his chest had paralyzed, making it difficult for his lungs to properly function.
Every day was a new challenge. He developed gastrointestinal atony, or bowel obstruction. He experienced involuntary muscle spasms in his leg - which his family mistook for a sign of recovery. When he began to regain feeling in his right arm, he lifted it up in a moment of victory, only to have it fall back and hit him in the face.
After a week, Langley moved into a regular hospital room until he was medically stable. For nine weeks he visited a rehabilitation facility where he received 3-4 hours of therapy each day.
Hard work resulted in newfound independence, including the ability to feed himself using adaptive equipment. He was also given a power wheelchair, allowing him the freedom of mobility.
Once he returned home, Langley’s family had to immediately educate themselves on how to care for their husband and father, who required assistance with dressing, bathing and food preparation.
Langley’s wife is also disabled following a brain aneurysm rupture in 2002, so he relied primarily on his two daughters and a sister to care for him. Everyone took turns bathing, dressing and moving him into his chair in the morning and then preparing him for bed in the evening - and spending the night. Langley could not roll over in bed and thus required assistance to prevent bedsores.
While Langley used to spend his free time remodeling and repairing his home and tinkering with classic cars, his days were now spent in front of the television or sitting in the front yard.
For a long time, the family used public transportation that could accommodate a wheelchair to get Langley to and from his frequent doctor appointments, but the ride was often two hours in each direction and the buses only ran weekdays. Purchasing a handicap-accessible van was out of financial reach, as were many things when Langley’s employment ceased.
It was Langley’s case manager that told him about the Floor Covering Industry Foundation (FCIF). Founded in 1980 by several prominent industry figures, led by the late Walter Guinan, the FCIF is dedicated to financially assisting floor covering industry professionals who experience catastrophic illness, severe disabilities or other life-altering hardships.
Langley applied to the Foundation by submitting a simple history of his condition, as well as providing details of his financial situation. Within a matter of weeks, he received a phone call that changed his life.
The Foundation provided the Langley family with a grant that allowed them to purchase a much-needed van equipped with a power lift, making it possible for Langley not only to make doctor visits without the use of public transportation, but also allow him to leave the house - even on weekends and evenings when buses weren’t running.
The grant also paid for other medical expenses and adaptive handicap equipment that the family could not previously afford.
“I’m not sure what we would have done were it not for the FCIF,” said Langley’s daughter Brandy. “I know we would not have had any way of transporting Dad, other than the buses’ certain hours and only inside the county we live in. It just means so much to us and is such a blessing that the Foundation exists. Because of them, we can give Dad the best care possible.”
“The Foundation has given me hope that despite all of that has happened, there’s a chance of getting out and having fun again,” added Langley. “For a year, I couldn’t go to church, go out to eat or just roam around Wal-Mart if I wanted to. But now, there is an opportunity for some normalcy other than sitting at home and watching TV.”
Today, Langley remains paralyzed, unable to feel anything from the chest down, though he has partial function of his arms and a few fingers on his right hand. He continues to experience a number of medical issues related to the accident, in addition to diabetes and asthma. Doctors gave him hope that for up to two years, there is a possibility of return of function below the level of injury. His family continues to pray.
The FCIF treats all of its grant recipients confidentially. The only reason that Langley’s story is being told here is because he chose to go public. He hopes to show his appreciation to the organization and give it a human face so that others may be aware of its extraordinary efforts.
Since its founding, the FCIF has granted more than $1.5 million to help those in need. Beneficiaries include retailers, installers, retail salespeople, distributor personnel, mill employees and executives. The Foundation ensures that these philanthropic efforts are accomplished with compassion, confidentiality and preservation of dignity for the individuals concerned. Financial help is viewed as an opportunity to say, “we care” to those in our industry.
For more information on the Floor Covering Industry Foundation or to help members of our industry family like Gary Langley cope with life-altering hardships, please call (714) 634-0302 or visitwww.fcif.org.