Surrounded by his family and therapists at The Palace Care & Rehab, Macon County tornado victim Peter Britton was released on Friday, April 18, after undergoing two months of intense physical, speech and occupational therapy.
Suffering injuries to his head, spinal cord, ribs, shoulder and legs, after a tornado ripped through his home on Akersville Rd. in Lafayette on the night of February 5, Peter died twice during transit to the hospital and received a fatal prognosis after arriving at Vanderbilt Medical Center.
And now, walking, talking and eating again, Peter’s everyday life is considered nothing short of a miracle to all of those who watched his progress and helped to give him a second chance.
Though he doesn’t remember a lot about the night he nearly lost his life, the man who found Peter’s lifeless body, Certified Nursing Assistant and Madison County EMS nurse Bandy Ford, can recall his rescue with crystal clarity.
Soon after his own home on Galen Road was hit by the storms, Bandy’s pager began going off, beckoning him to help other tornado victims, and he and a friend got into his personal vehicle and headed for Akersville Road, not yet certain what they would find when they arrived.
“It was like a scene from a movie,” Bandy said. “When we found Peter, he was covered in blood and had no pulse, and we had to move on to help those who were still alive. But when I looked back at him, the cell phone in his hand lit up and I had this feeling he was alive. I guess you could call it a sign, but if that hadn’t of happened Peter probably wouldn’t have made it.”
Dieing once in the ambulance to Macon County General Hospital and then again during transit to Vanderbilt, doctors told Peter’s wife of only 6 months, Jessie, that her husband would probably not make it.
On February 26th Peter was transferred to The Palace Care & Rehab in Red Boiling Springs, where he still could not feed himself, walk, sit up or roll over on his own.
Determined to prove Peter’s fatal prognosis wrong, a team of nurses at the Palace, Occupational Therapist Patsy Wilkerson, Physical Therapist Carolyn Blankenship and Speech & Language Pathologist Regina Cassetty would not give up on him.
And as fate would have it, Bandy, the CNA who saved his life, started working at The Palace the day after his transfer, and would now be there to help him heal.
“I saw shocked to see Peter here that day,” Bandy remembers. “I just remember thinking what a miracle it was. We all saw so much horror that night . . . it was unreal. It means a lot to me that I was able to do some good. Seeing Peter able to go home and survive through this has been a worthwhile experience for me.”
Peter’s Speech & Language Therapist Regina Cassetty spent a lot of time with Peter during his recovery and will never forget the strength he displayed during therapy.
“Peter has a great attitude,” she said. “His parents were tough individuals too and both bravely served in Vietnam. Peter’s tough and that’s what you have to be to overcome something like this. He had a lot of support from his family and he’s exceeded all of our hopes for him.”
When Peter arrived at The Palace on a feeding tube, Regina said his first goal was to be able to feed himself, and when asked what his first meal would be once he accomplished it, he softly whispered ‘a big piece of chocolate cake and a glass of milk.’
And when The Palace staff bid Peter a farewell, congratulating him for the progress he’s made, a giant piece of chocolate cake and a tall glass of milk sat in front of him on the table.
And with each forkful, now able to eat on his own, sit up on his own and live each day independently, Peter feels thankful for everyone who’s helped him achieve his goals.
“I want to thank everyone here at The Palace who helped and pushed me,” he said. “Especially my wife. If it wasn’t for her, I would have given up by now.”
And with each step, Peter Britton, who survived death time and time again, begins to rebuild the life he knew before the night of February 5th, a walking miracle who, against all odds, fought for a second chance . . . and won.