Anthony Taylor of Toledo was 19 and a recent high school graduate when he was maimed in a traffic crash that eventually rendered him a paraplegic.
Nearly nine years and more than 100 surgeries later, his life hung in the balance when he had his latest surgery a week before Thanksgiving. But he pulled through, and a week later his extended family gathered with him at the University of Toledo Medical Center, which provided the setting for his family’s Thanksgiving meal.
“He is a true, true hero,” said Deborah Adeyemi, 57, Mr. Taylor’s mother, as she stood surrounded by about 20 family members at the former Medical College of Ohio Hospital’s Infusion Center, where food was served. Mr. Taylor joined them on a hospital bed in the same room.
“The hospital staff is phenomenal. ... I feel blessed and thankful that we are here today,” she said.
Mr. Taylor, 28, a 2003 Bowsher High School graduate, said he was frustrated and upset when he found out a few weeks ago that because of the surgery, he wasn’t going home for Thanksgiving.
The surgery lasted 14 hours and involved a leg amputation. Some of his leg flesh was used to cover his spine that became exposed over time. The crash left him with a torn aorta, a crushed pelvis, and his liver and kidneys lacerated, his mother said.
“It was a touch-and-go situation. We didn’t think he was going to make it. And he did. This is a blessing. I am just so happy,” Mrs. Adeyemi said.
“They never gave up on him. They told us we just need to keep praying. The new tissue [on the spine] just wouldn’t form, and then last week [after the surgery] it did. I feel blessed and thankful that we are here today,” she said.
Tamara Smith, 23, a nurse attending to Mr. Taylor, said it was Wendy Holley, a charge nurse, who came up with the idea to hold the family event at the hospital. Hospital management made the Infusion Center available and set up the tables; the family provided the food.
Dinner included turkey with all the traditional trimmings and desserts of a red velvet cake, sweet-potato pie, buttermilk cocoa cake, cheesecake, and a pumpkin pie. There was also a pecan pie that Ms. Smith had made for her patient, who has been in and out of the hospital for more than eight years.
Before the feast started, the family held hands while Kevin Taylor I, 31, of Akron, Mr. Taylor’s uncle, said a prayer. Anthony Adeyemi, 58, of Toledo, Mr. Taylor’s stepfather, then cut the turkey and Mrs. Adeyemi fixed her son a plate and served it to him.
“Happy Thanksgiving,” she said, as she gave him his plate. Unable to reach high enough to kiss him on his face, she then kissed his hand.
Mr. Taylor tasted his turkey and smiled. "It’s good,” he said. “I've been waiting all day for this.”
Contact Mike Sigov at: email@example.com or 419-724-6089.